Across the great divide: transitioning from newspapers to magazines

This next session was with University of Alabama professor Mark Mayfield. Before entering academia, he was with USA Today for 10 years before becoming editor-in-chief for several magazines like Art and Antiques and House Beautiful.

I liked how Mayfield started out: making the transition from newspapers to magazines starts with a solid journalism career. No matter where you go, reporting is reporting, writing is writing, facts are facts and following leads is following leads. The only thing that changes is the way you assemble all these elements to create comprehensive product.

While working in more traditional journalism, Mayfield said it’s important to pursue as much feature writing as possible, and laid out a road map of how to assemble a good feature story:

  • Lead should go from specific to general
  • Focus on one person, scene or event that illustrates the main point of the story
  • Must have a “nut graph.” This should be in the first three to five paragraphs
  • Follow the nut graph with supporting material, quotes and details
  • Make sure there’s an ending. It usually refers back to the lead
  • And always, give a sense of place
Mayfield gave a lot of other tips on making the transition, covering everything from becoming an expert in the field to developing a familiarity with magazines you may want to work for. He also gave strategies on pursuing writing positions in magazines, giving tips like “Don’t bug the editor in chief” and “Editors really do prefer email queries.” He concluded by remind the rather crowded room to not get discouraged because there is a magazine out there for everyone.
-Rachel Southmayd
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