Magazine editors detail rise to top

Last Monday, Ed@TCNJ, an organization for aspiring magazine editors, capped off the year with its final program: a panel titled “Women’s Magazines: Mixing Style and Substance for Every Woman.” The three panelists were female magazine editors from some of the nation’s top women’s magazines.

After listening to the panelists’ enticing and inspiring stories, the audience realized that their character and appearance spoke to their magazines’ appeals.

Though they were each different, all three women were inspirational and powerful. They revealed what it takes to make it to the top, what their magazines are all about and quirky stories about their climb up the industry’s ladder.

The first panelist was Annemarie Conte, College alumna and staff writer for Jane magazine. She writes pieces that push the edge. Recently, she appeared driving topless in Jane in an effort to promote women’s sexuality and power. She said the response to this move for empowerment has been amazing.

The second panelist was Elisa Benson, assistant editor at Seventeen magazine. Benson was spunky and fun, and her stories gathered laughs and warmth from the audience. After her biography was read by Ed@TCNJ president Monique Reuben, junior English major, she said she did not know what to do. “Should I gesture and smile?” she joked.

Her openness and realness were a representation of the Seventeen she described: a magazine that cares about the day-to-day lives of teenage girls and empowers them by offering activities to help better the community and even the world.

The third panelist was Zulaika Jumaralli, editorial assistant at Essence magazine. She described Essence as a magazine that works to “uplift black women” and can also uplift any reader. Jumaralli summed up the idea that makes work in magazines so appealing: “You can come to work and feel like you’re not at work,” and that is when you know you love your job, she said.

Throughout the discussion that followed, all three women spoke of their love for their jobs and encouraged the members of the audience to take the plunge into the exciting field of magazine publishing.

Reuben led the panel by asking thought-provoking questions that illuminated the substance of women’s magazines. Her questions covered topics ranging from empowerment and politics in women’s magazines to career advice for aspiring magazine journalists.

The best career advice the panelists could give: “Show you,” Jumaralli said. “Do not try to be someone you are not. You need to love what you do.” And to be able to accomplish that, you must be yourself from the get-go.

All three relied on a combination of hard work and persistence to get where they wanted to be. Benson always knew what she wanted to do, despite majoring in art in College.

Benson ended up landing an internship at CosmoGIRL! and was offered a job on her last day. “Don’t give up on your other passions,” Benson said. She explained that they will help you to be well-rounded and distinctive in your interviews.

Jumaralli went through various experiences before finding her heart in magazine writing. She was a staff writer at a newspaper and then went into book publishing. She never gave up on her dream of working at Essence despite the fact that she was turned down for a job several times before being hired as an editorial assistant. She stressed the importance of keeping in touch with your contacts, explaining that she would “personally drop in, drop an e-mail, visit – all with an agenda.”

Conte showed a similar drive. Once she got her internship at Jane, she was willing to do everything they asked her. Still, she warned that coming on too strong can sometimes backfire. “There is a very fine line between stalker and enthusiasm,” she said. She stressed the fact that “personality is 99 percent (of the job).”

And what are the magazines working toward now? A main topic is the empowerment of females. Benson explained that Seventeen is about “enjoying things at the moment.” Being a teenager and even a college student is an amazing time, and it should be fun – so the magazine strives to reflect that. At the same time, Seventeen wants to inspire girls to just be themselves. The magazine tries to feature “real life models” and celebrate girls of all shapes and sizes.

Jane also encourages women to have pride in their bodies. In their May 2007 issue, they included the piece “Breasts are Nothing to be Ashamed Of” in which 23 women volunteered to pose topless and “show the world that we’re all perfect,” according to the magazine. Each set of breasts was different and real – and Conte said the response has been both large and inspiring.

Essence allows women to tell their own stories as a way to spread a message of empowerment to its readers. The magazine includes discussion of business and work along with the usual beauty and fashion found in women’s magazines to boost women’s spiritual selves.

The panel stressed that women’s magazines, and the writers behind them, are far from girly “fluff” and even extend out to the male audience. They are full of life and emotion and inspire every reader to do what they want to do and be who they want to be.