Day in the Life of a Magazine Editor | What It's Like to Work in Journalism

A Day in the Life: Magazine Editor

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I’ve chronicled other people’s jobs on this blog, but never really my own. Possibly because I started this site (in 2007!) right around the time I was transitioning out of an office job and into the freelance world, and you would fall asleep at your desk reading about my day-to-day happenings of working from home in my pajamas and sometimes not moving or speaking or doing anything but staring at a screen and stringing together words in a Word document for hours at a time. Trust me on this one.

Since July, however, I’ve been back in the cubicle saddle—but by choice. The managing editor of our city magazine asked me to fill in for her on maternity leave, then when she returned, she decided she wanted to job-share; lucky for us, corporate approved this bold move. It turned out to be a dream scenario for me: I could use my background in magazines and love for all things Nashville to help shape the voice and style of a smaller print publication while writing about things I care about, juggling other projects and maintaining some flexibility with a two-days-a-week office schedule.

magazine job

Since many of you have, no doubt, seen the media world glamorized on TV in the big screen in shows such as Sex and the City and movies like The Devil Wears Prada, I thought you might find interesting to see the true inner workings of a city magazine (realizing, of course, that no day is “typical” as it’s ever-changing).

9am: Arrive in the office. When I worked in New York, magazines maintained a 10-to-6 schedule (though rarely did staffers ever leave that early). In Nashville, most of our office is in around 9 and out around 5, just like any normal job (though much of what we do does require being “out in the field,” so even if we leave work that early, most of us are usually covering some event or happening until late into the night). Sometimes I’ll get up and go to the gym before work if I’m feeling ambitious; others, I roll out of bed at 7:45am after I’ve hit snooze twice with just enough time to shower and get ready before needing to leave. Once there, I check email, get organized, prepare for another week.

10am: Edit meeting. Each Monday morning, the editorial team—in this case, that’s five of us—plus our publisher (the head honcho) and occasionally the content director, who works on a freelance basis, will meet for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to discuss the current issue as well as the editorial mix for the next couple months. This entails going over any ideas we each have (or ones pitched to us by our roster of freelancers) and discussing all assigned stories and where we are on them, plus what we envision for art (i.e. photography) and what sort of web tie-ins we’re planning to go along with the issue.

working at a magazine

If it’s a production week (those are the busiest), we’ll keep the meeting short because we all have a lot to do before shipping the issue off. In this case, it’s the beginning of the cycle, so we have more time to sit, collaborate and map out the next couples months worth of issues.

11am Sales meeting. Sometimes I’ll sit in on this, but usually it’s the publisher and the sales girls who meet to talk advertising goals, any special events (we have a handful each month), how to up newsstand sales and the like. Often, after our edit meeting, I return to my desk and hit the writing (or editing) part of the job hard until lunch.

12:30pm Leave for an interview. Many days, I take our mandatory half-hour lunch break in the office cafeteria, but today I’m heading to the house of Deacon Claybourne—er, that’s Chip Esten to some of you—to do the interview for our cover story. I stop by Fit Food Revolution to grab a pittaya bowl on the go.

pittaya bowl

Chip is even lovelier than I expected, and much to my delight, his whole family (including his dog!) happen to be around, so I get to meet them all. We chat about his decades in acting, his start in music (then transition back to it later on in life), his trio of darling kids and his love for Nashville (the show but also the city). I don’t want to leave at the end of our hour together.

Chip Esten

(I mean, seriously. They call this a job? I call it heaven.)

Chip Esten

2:30pm Return to office. I’m still high off my interview—you think runner’s high is something? try reporter’s high!—but there’s so much work to do. Among today’s tasks are setting up an interview with Brian from Florida Georgia Line about his treehouse home, scheduling a coffee with Luke Bryan’s interior designer for an article, and tracking down some outstanding invoices from freelancers. I also have a half dozen completed stories that I need to do a top edit on before sending them to the copy editor, not to mention all of the copy (lengthy features, openers, captions, the works) that I’ll be writing myself, which requires research, reaching out to the source, scheduling a time for a phone or in-person interview, then executing said interview.

Meanwhile, our production designer wants to chat about art needs for next month, our other designer wants to have an initial meeting to talk about content for our next Weddings issue and start going through submissions, I need to see where we are on our biannual At Home issue, and of course there are the incoming stream of pitches from publicists and writers alike to tend to, on top of finishing the edits for the other city title, Murfreesboro magazine, that we control. There’s also plenty of wrangling photography for sections like music where we need to get artists’ press photos (you’d be surprised how much time it takes requesting and following up for images that have already been shot!). It’s a whole lot to keep straight—my desk is an organized jumble of Post-It notes and lists on legal pads—but the mix makes the day fly by and keeps things interesting.

Though I don’t work in the art department, often there are day-long photoshoots for the magazine and I’ll stop by if my schedule allows.

Chaley Rose

Particularly if I know the subject of the shoot, am interviewing him/her or it’s someone I’d like to meet.

Sam Palladio

5:30pm: Event. Most days I could leave by 5pm, but the traffic downtown is horrendous at that time so I usually wait until at least 5:30, if I’m not walking down the street to an event in the Gulch, like the VIP opening of Prima. With everything going on within the Nashville food scene, more often than not there is a restaurant opening or other special event to attend, many of which start as soon as the work day ends. Once a month, that event is the media networking organization I started where we all meet in a different spot every time for drinks and mingling.

happy hour at Rumours East

8pm: Other event. Oftentimes, there are #1 parties at the labels or showcases from artists (both newcomers and veterans) who have albums coming out soon or even a full-on concert at the Ryman or Bridgestone. You just never know—this is Music City, after all. This doubles as my social hours as more often than not, I know a good majority of those in attendance.

Acme event

10pm: Still another event. The nights I’m actually “on” in Nashville, I never go to just one event; it’s usually two or three (sometimes as many as four). For a relatively small city of just over a million, there are surprisingly dozens of things going on any given night, many invite-only to the media and others free to the public. Last week, it was Carrie Underwood headlining the Opry with Kacey Musgraves, Emmylou Harris and Kree Harrison one night, and Brett Eldredge playing Sinatra to a room of 50 people another.

Zeke Duhon

Midnight: Go home. Catch up on the emails I’ve received since leaving the office. Tend to my freelance work. Schedule content on this blog. Prepare for the following day. Eventually climb in bed sometime around 2am and pass out five minutes after turning on my Kindle. Zzzzzzzzzz.

  • December 17, 2014

    wow!! That was intense! I don’t know how you do it girl 😀

  • December 17, 2014

    Okay, but WHAT is a pittaya bowl?! Looks delish!

    • December 17, 2014

      Some amazing health thing that tastes like dessert! Google tells me it’s dragonfruit pitaya, banana, pineapple, coconut butter and coconut water blended together and topped with hemp seed granola, raw coconut flakes and bananas.

  • December 17, 2014

    Sounds like a super interesting (but long!) day! I’ve always said I think working in an office for a couple days a week would be ideal – it’s nice sometimes to have interaction with coworkers, but it’s also great to have the flexibility to work from home (or wherever) sometimes, too.

    I really need to make a trip down to Nashville! All of your posts about the cool things to do there have convinced me.

    • December 17, 2014

      I actually love it! The people in my office are all awesome, and it’s so nice having coworkers (other than Ella) after nearly seven years of working by my lonesome from home =)

      Yes, come to Nashville!!!

  • December 17, 2014

    What about sleep?? How are you managing on apparently less than 7 hours? I am getting sleepy just reading all of this. And also, starting to feel like I’ve been incredibly lazy with my life!

    • December 17, 2014

      Sleep is not something that comes easy to me! I wish it were… Instead, I just stay up until I finally am so tired I fall asleep and then operate off of adrenaline =)

  • December 18, 2014

    How do you fit all of that in and get up in the morning?! Sounds so interesting but very exhausting!

  • December 22, 2014

    You amaze me! None of this comes as a surprise, but girl, you should bottle whatever fuels you and start selling it. Can’t wait to finally make it to Nashville this summer!

  • December 22, 2014

    did you ever know that you’re my heeeero? and everything I would like to be? and also is that zeke in the last pic!?

  • December 27, 2014

    Wow! Your job sounds really cool. Nashville seems like such an awesome city. Love the show too!

  • January 6, 2015

    Ahhh, the events! I have to admit, giving up all those invites was a con for me in leaving the mag/publishing world…but in reality I am a total hermit who hardly ever accepted them, ha. Very cool that you have the ability to job share, that’s pretty rare!

  • January 6, 2015

    I love it! You’re an inspiration. I love the way that you show the nitty-gritty of your work. So much better than the ever-perfect story. That’s how it’s done; hard slog and a great work-force-support-network! Can I come to Nashville?!

  • December 31, 2015

    I realize this comment is a year late, but man am I glad I found your site! I’m a former assistant editor for a city magazine in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I currently freelance for a few websites, but I’m looking to jump back into the day-job scenario. We’re in Georgia now, but we’re most likely moving to San Diego early next year, so I’m getting anxious/excited to see about writing for their city mag. Anyway, that was my very long way of saying, “hello,” and that I’m excited to follow your blog 😀

    • January 2, 2016

      Welcome! Happy to have you here. Funny enough, I actually left the day-job scenario just a few weeks ago. But still working in journalism, so still relevant to what you’re looking for (I hope!) 😉

  • October 5, 2017

    Hi Kristin,
    Your inspiring role of a magazine editor and giving us a sneak peak about the functioning is noteworthy. How similar, we have media houses in India run on the same pattern where we have Monday meeting for 20-30 mins to gear up with the strategies for the week .
    Also, thanks for the mouth watering visual, would love to have it

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