Sunday, January 13, 2008

Quick & Simple intern rundown

As promised, here's a play by play of my fall/winter internship at Quick & Simple Magazine, a women's weekly published by Hearst. I was in the Home & Crafts department, and in case you missed it: I finished there last week and am now at The New Yorker.

I had to do this little journal to get credit for it at school, so may as well share the whole thing. Apologies for the length and the pretty boring quality of writing...keep in mind, it was for school (COUNTDOWN: 11 days til I graduate.)

Internship Journal: Quick & Simple Magazine

Here are the highlights from my experiences interning in the Home & Crafts Editorial section at Quick & Simple Magazine at Hearst Corporation from October 2007 - January 2008.

-Getting Familiar with the Magazine
My first week at the magazine was pretty slow, but it was a comfortable way to start. My bosses - Lauren, Senior Home Editor, and Laura, Assistant Home Editor - had me doing so administrative tasks mainly so that I could become familiar with the way the work and the magazine itself. I had to send copies of recent issues out to vendors that were featured in the home section, and by doing this I got to learn the public relations people for each company they deal with and I got to spend some time flipping through the pages of issues. I also had to return some products they used in a photo shoot.
They were also in the planning stages of figuring out story ideas for the 2008 issues, so they asked me to make a calendar for them of all the popular and more off beat holidays and their dates in the new year. I was surprised at how far in advance they plan for the holidays, even though it’s a weekly magazine.

-Researching for Features
A big part of my responsibility was to conduct online research for various story ideas that they were working on about home and crafts. One of the first they asked me to look up was ideas for recycling old Christmas supplies. They were aware of the common ideas for this, but they wanted something more creative. I spent quite a bit of time Googling different holiday words and trying to come up with unconventional ideas that they might use for the story. Editors are very creative thinkers and it was difficult to find unique ideas, but they ended up using some of the stuff I found!
Another way I had to research was by going through older home and craft books looking for images they could use in a story. Because the magazine is owned by Hearst Corporation, any images used in another Hearst book or magazine can be used free by our title. This makes for cost-efficient stories that look just as good as original ideas, and because it’s a relatively new magazine, money is key. I got to go through books and pick out images that went off a similar theme and then the editors chose what would actually be used from my suggestions.
Other features I researched for included new storage products, and product roundups of red and yellow accessories. This required contacting various companies to see what new items they had, skimming through various websites in search of cheap, interesting products that would photograph well, and going through old magazines (both Quick & Simple and competitors) to get ideas. This was all very much idea-based, and with the exception of a few product print outs, there was often nothing tangible for me to turn in to my bosses as a result of my time working. However, my ideas seemed to please them.

-Administrative Work
The job title “intern” automatically comes with the connotation of filing, faxing, and photocopying. Luckily, most of this internship did not consist of days like that, though there were a few. I had to fill in for the receptionist who was out sick one day, and while this took me away from my usual setting I did get to learn from it. I got to meet more people who work at the magazine coming in and out through reception, and I became more familiar with the magazine at large when calls came in.
Other administrative tasks I had to do included sorting and filing piles of press kits from home and craft companies, and updating an Excel document with publicity contact information.

-Photo Shoots
As unimpressive as the administrative work was, it was worth it to put up with that so that I could attend photo shoots. The magazine has an in-house photography studio right on the floor, with a huge prop closet next door, rows of colored papers for backdrops, and stacks of camera equipment. My first time in there I was amazed at how different it looked from any of the pictures I had seen in the magazine. With all the variations they can do in setting up, they can make that space look like any kind of room.
The first shoot I sat it on was for a story about being clean versus messy, and they had two models come in to represent the different sides. I was surprised that they came in separately even though the final image looks as if they are posing simultaneously. More unnerving, though, was the number of shots it took before deciding on the perfect one. Each model took at least an hour trying different positions and different props while the editors, the photographer, and the photo editor stood by watching carefully. The goal was to get the perfect image to fit the page, but there were so many elements that could go wrong. Just from listening to all their comments in attempt to frame the best image I learned all it takes behind the scenes to get the single image a reader sees on the page.
A similar process took place in shoots without models. They shot a story called “Luxe for Less” a few others that only consisted of products. I figured it would be easier to work with inanimate objects rather than people, but it was just as much of a challenge. So many things, from colors to sizes to leaving space for text on the page, matter in terms of magazine photography. On the days we did these shoots I learned a lot from the photo editor even though that wasn’t really my goal. Though I’m interested in the writing part of a magazine page, the art part is equally as essential and it’s important for both elements to work together.
At the end of my internship we were working on an Easter story to be featured on the cover of an issue, and I got to observe an art meeting with the Editor in Chief, the creative director, and several other people from the non-editorial side. To be a fly on the wall for this was very interesting. People all had different opinions and ideas for the cover art and a big issue was authenticity of the image.

-Press Events
A big benefit of this internship was the opportunity to attend press events for the home and crafts markets. The first one I was invited to was for Target’s spring home collection. Neither of my bosses were able to attend, so they asked me to go and RSVP’ed for me as their “Home Assistant.”
The event was held in a showroom in midtown, and there were a number of publicists and magazine editors in attendance. I tried my best to act professional even though I was significantly younger than everyone there! I took notes on the various products that were set up in sample rooms and got press materials from the representatives to give back to my bosses. They also gave us swag - free samples - which my bosses let me keep.
After the excitement of that, I got to attend another event hosted by WalMart. This time one of my bosses, Laura, came with me, and I was more prepared having been to the Target one previously. This one was also set up in a showroom, but the publicists took all the editors (and me) all around as a big group to better explain the products in case anyone wanted to use them in their magazine. It was interesting to see the different marketing tactics between Target and WalMart and to see which my boss and other editors preferred.
The last event I got to attend was the most fun because it was a preview of a big craft fair, with “take and make” tables, where editors can try a craft and take it home. Both of my bosses, as well as an editorial assistant, attended, and we got to try a bunch of different crafts not only for our own enjoyment but to see if they were “quick and simple” enough to be featured in our magazine. Because this one was more for crafters and craft editors, more targeted market people were there. My boss knew many attendees and vendors and introduced me to them. It was great to see the up and coming ideas that will be in the pages of the magazine.

One of my main goals for this or any internship was to get a published writing clip to add to my portfolio. The magazine doesn’t actually give bylines, and the home section doesn’t often run long-form articles. However they did allow me to write brief product description blurbs that went along with a few stories. Not only did this allow me to get writing and get creative, but I was challenged to be concise and accurate. The ones I worked on are just now coming out in recent issues and it’s exciting to see my words in print.

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