I can't help but be reminded of a conversation I had with my father in 1995, not long after I was hired to be a staff writer for this magazine. Like any 18-year-old faced with the intimidating prospect of having to pursue a life's path, I made a declaration that I wanted to pursue a degree in magazine journalism armed with nothing more than the knowledge that I liked to write.
The first time my nameever appeared in the pages of Columbus Monthly magazine, I was seven years into my journalism career as a sports reporter for the former Suburban News Publications, a chain of Central Ohio community weeklies. I was asked by then-editor Lenore Brown, one of the magazine's founders, to write a couple of short sidebars on Otterbein and Capital as part of a cover package previewing the upcoming fall and winter sports seasons.
That was September 1991. And as thrilled as I was to see my byline in a magazine that I'd been reading since my parents first subscribed in 1975 when it premiered, I managed to resist the urge to frame the cover of my debut issue, which would become noted, not because of my sterling contribution, but because of the controversial cover. It featured a full-frame, close-up photo of a jock strap. It wasn't the magazine's finest hour. But people did talk about it. "A picture of a jock strap certainly doesn't make me want to display your magazine on my coffee table," wrote one offended letter-writer. "Maybe next month you could use a condom or a sanitary napkin on the cover. That would show real class," wrote another.
In any case, it seemed I'd passed the audition. Other freelance assignments soon followed, even appearing in issues that didn't sport underwear on the cover. In October 1995, I was asked to join the staff.
I would spend the next 10 years with Columbus Monthly absorbed in telling the stories of this city. The stories were as varied as Columbus itself. One month I'd be sitting in a tiny, closed room in the Lebanon Correctional Institution listening to a convicted murderer describe, without a hint of emotion, how he'd cut the throat of his best friend. The next I'd be writing about a love story between two Rhodes Tower residents named Bandit and Aurora, who found each other in the skies above Columbus andhelped make the Ohio Division of Wildlife's Downtown peregrine falcon nesting program a success. I even wrote about gluing my eye shut in a monumental moment of stupidity while trying to fix my daughter's clarinet-a tale that former co-workers continue to take glee in. Just last month, almost 15 years after my questionable public confession, I received an email from one of them, asking, "Am I the first one to send you this?" with a link to a story about a Florida woman who shared my same dreadful fate.
But like all chapters, that one came to an end as other opportunities presented themselves. I became editor of a sister publication, The Other Paper, followed by the chance to try my hand as a daily newspaper reporter at the state's largest paper, The Columbus Dispatch.
Then, little more than a month ago, a phone call took me by complete surprise with an offer I couldn't refuse-the chance to return to Columbus Monthly, this time as editor.
I can't help but be reminded of a conversation I had with my father in 1995, not long after I was hired to be a staff writer for this magazine. He reminded me of a conversation we'd had years earlier, when I was a lanky, pimply recent Westerville North High School graduate about to leave home for the first time for the flatlands of Bowling Green State University. Like any 18-year-old faced with the intimidating prospect of having to pursue a life's path, I made a declaration that I wanted to pursue a degree in magazine journalism armed with nothing more than the knowledge that I liked to write. "I want to write for Columbus Monthly someday," I'd told him.
And now that I'd been hired to write for the magazine, he wanted to know, with a hint of jest and pride, "So what's your next goal?"
This is it, Dad. And I promise I won't put a jock strap on the cover.