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Kathe Lemon is an Editor-in-chief of the Avenue Magazine.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
I started my career in magazines through an internship at an aviation trade magazine while I was in university. It wasn’t at all glamorous, but it was a lot of fun. My contacts there led to helping to start two in-flight travel publications for small airlines on the west coast, which translated easily into working at a travel publication in Toronto when I moved there for my MA at Ryerson. Since then I’ve almost always worked in-house in magazines. And as the publishing landscape has evolved that has meant more digital work as well as other brand extensions.
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WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I’m not sure there is such a thing as a “typical day” for me. My day-to-day work is on our long-lead monthly publication. There is a lot that has to get done, but nothing that needs to get done on any particular day. As the editor-in-chief of a city lifestyle publication with a very wide base of topic areas that we cover in an evolving city, I get pulled in a lot of directions and have the enviable responsibility to allow my curiosity to lead me to a certain extent. My time is divided between managing the creative team and freelancers (40%), working with the publisher on brand development and extensions (15%), targetted research and writing of my own (10%), actually dealing with copy and proofs (20%), and sort of general community building/community relations/background research/”gadding about” (15%).
WHAT DOES YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)
I’m not committed long-term to any one solution and I change this up quite often, but I do find that writing things down still helps me remember things the most. So, I have a lot of reporter notebooks full of notes with stickie notes stuck out the sides with annotations so that I can find what I’m looking for. We also use printed calendars and a handwritten ‘To Do List’ for the team for each week that’s on a giant stickie note on the wall. But we also use shared google calendars, one for each team member; and then calendars for deadlines, a calendar for invitations, and a separate one for events the magazine sponsors. We use a lot of google docs for brainstorming and collecting story ideas (although I have a strong love/hate relationship with Google Drive). We also use google sheets for tracking our editorial. However, we are currently exploring moving over to Trello which we use already for our digital story tracking. And I use Texture a ton for finding packaging ideas and keeping up with what others in the industry are doing.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET INSPIRED?
I find inspiration all around but mainly in talking to people. Because Avenue’s a city magazine, it’s really easy to get out and talk to our readers, talk to our community members and find out what they are doing and what’s inspiring them and that’s really contagious. In terms of inspiration to do magazine work itself, I think this is sometimes a challenging time to get inspired — we all know the challenges are high and the future is uncertain. It can sometimes feel like a bad gamble to put your life into this type of work and it’s easy to get down. But I find that when I talk to others who work in the industry about what they’re doing, what they’re enjoying, and why they still love it, it’s really easy to get inspired all over again. Actually even sometimes talking to others about the challenges — and feeling like a bunch of smart people are in the trenches with you at least — can be really inspiring. I’m trying to approach some of the challenges as opportunities. It’s time to do our most creative work and take risks because there is no sure bet these days.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
Wow — that’s broad. In terms of writing advice, I really like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING/INNOVATIVE THING YOU HAVE SEEN ON ANOTHER OUTLET OTHER THAN YOUR OWN?
I recently had the chance to chat with the editor of Popular Science, Joe Brown, and he’s doing some really interesting work. I was particularly interested in his theme issue and cover strategy, and have been mulling over how that might be implemented here.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM THAT YOU’RE PASSIONATELY TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
How to motivate the team to serve readers better and do our best possible work while dealing with all the challenges and pressures of a changing landscape, new digital opportunities, an evolving place for print, and fewer resources.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
Remember that the advantage we have is we KNOW that the landscape is evolving. Other industries are just finding that out. Your career will not be in 15 years what it is today — but that’s great. Keep your eyes and mind open but be sceptical about what the experts are telling you about where things are headed as well.