Columbus Monthly's new editor reflects on his journalism beginnings–and what's next for the magazine.
When I started in journalism, my career aspirations centered on one thing: landing a job at a big-city daily newspaper. I viewed that as the pinnacle of the profession, romantic and exciting, a chance to wield power, reach the largest audiences and hang out with strivers, oddballs and hustlers. I wanted a real-life “His Girl Friday.”
That old Hollywood portrayal of scheming reporters, corrupt politicians and a killer hidden in a roll-top desk wasn't exactly grounded in reality, of course. As everyone knows—and as my photograph on this page attests—all editors are much better-looking than Cary Grant. But I held on to my big-city daily dreams for the first few years of my career—that is, until l found a different path by accident.
In 2001, new in town and out of work, I accepted a freelance writing assignment for Columbus Monthly: a front-of-the-book story about Nationwide Arena security guards searching purses following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. More freelance assignments soon followed, each more challenging than the previous one, and in 2002, I was offered a full-time job with this magazine. It didn't take long to abandon my newspaper ambitions. As I jumped into my new role, all I wanted to do was work for Columbus Monthly.
I loved how the magazine constantly stretched me, even that first freelance assignment. I remember standing near the arena entrance, a notebook and pen in hand, waiting for female Blue Jackets fans to pass through the security checkpoint, dreading what I was going to have to do next: ask them what it was like to have a stranger search through their most private personal possessions. Despite my misgivings, the experience turned out fine. Not everyone was eager to talk to me, but a few had some funny observations, and the story ended up better than I expected.
This phenomenon kept occurring—and in more significant ways. As part of a small editorial staff of a general interest magazine, I was required to write in-depth features on a vast array of subjects, from the collapse of the homegrown airline Skybus to the life and times of the ex-con faith healer Leroy Jenkins. The work constantly challenged me, pushed me out of my comfort zone, made me wonder if I was in over my head. Inevitably, my fears were unwarranted, and I discovered I was capable of much more than I thought.
In January, I returned to Columbus Monthly as its new editor after a year leading its sister business publication, Columbus CEO. I'll need to stretch myself again as I attempt to build upon this magazine's long tradition of lively, authoritative storytelling, connect with new audiences and lead during an era of continual technological change. The work will be hard, but I can cling to at least one thing: I can now assign other people to do the purse stories.