Rock and Roll Never Forgets: SPI Visits Rolling Stone

Students marvel at Rolling Stone’s Hall of Covers

Walking through the hallways at Rolling Stone magazine’s offices on 6th Avenue is like strolling through a history of American pop culture. Portraits and paintings of some of the biggest artists in rock music hang on the walls, current and past issues of the magazine are stacked on the desks of staffers and interns, and vinyl albums hang framed in editors’ offices.

But the “Hall of Covers” was perhaps the crowning glory of  the NYU Summer Publishing Institute students’ tour through Wenner Media, which includes offices for Men’s Journal and Us Weekly. Rolling Stone covers of every issue to date adorn the walls of one long hallway near the front of the office.

“This is like an art gallery,” said Victoria von Biel, who directs the magazine session of SPI and was our chaperone for the visit. In fact, the hall rendered some students speechless, while others snapped photos and pointed to images of some of their favorite artists and cultural figures. Whenever a Rolling Stone cover subject visits the office, noted Evie Nagy, Managing Editor of rollingstone.com, “We always take them down to the hall and show them their cover.” She cited Jeff Bridges as the most recent example.

Nagy’s anecdote came up as part of a question-and-answer session between SPI students and Rolling Stone editors, including Nagy, Senior Editor Christian Hoard, who administered the tour, Senior Photo Editor Sasha Lecca, and Patrick Doyle. “It’s been amazing,” said Doyle, who landed his Assistant Editor position straight out of college two years ago. “I never thought it would happen like this.”

The student-editor conversation covered topics as wide-ranging as Hoard’s humorous stories about observing Lil Wayne’s rather disorganized recording process and the technical operations of Rolling Stone’s two-week production cycle.

“The key here is flexibility,” Hoard said. “Jann Wenner [the magazine’s co-founder and publisher] is notorious for making changes to the magazine at the last minute—always for the better. We’ve even had to switch covers very late in the game, and we tend to plan out covers months in advance.”

Hoard went on to explain that every piece of editorial content often goes through two rounds of edits, all coordinated with the research, copy, and art departments. “We have a production meeting every day during the second week [of the production cycle] just to keep everybody updated on what’s going on,” he said.

Everyone we met with made it clear that Rolling Stone is simply a great place for writers. Hoard and Nagy explained that they are unafraid to give interns the chance to write content for both web and print, and freelance writers are also frequently used.

“We’re trying to cover all of music, which is a pretty broad mandate,” explained Associate Editor Simon Vozick-Levinson, who edits the front-of-book pieces for the magazine. “Everyone who works in the music department is a bit of a music nerd,” Hoard said. “And I mean that in the best possible way.” Indeed, hearing new albums weeks before their official release dates is a perk that all of the staff enjoy.

As the students reluctantly left the offices, they made sure to sneak one final peek at the Hall of Covers on the way out.

by Colby Smith

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