SPI Week One: Don’t Stay in Your Lane

Like many of my fellow students, I have always loved reading and storytelling. So, the idea of waking up on the first day of the NYU Summer Publishing Institute in New York City (a world away from my North Carolina home) after months of waiting, meant it was finally time to kick-off a summer that will be unlike any other.

In just the first week, I’ve already learned so much about the industry. The one thing that constantly resonates is the level of passion and dedication around me. My fellow students exhibit a “dive-in” attitude that allows us to immerse ourselves in the inspiring reality of meeting industry leaders and change-makers.

Here’s just a taste of what we’ve learned so far and in just one week.

Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour , speaks with students after delivering  the 2017  magazine session keynote on day one of SPI. 

There’s no such thing as “stay in your lane:”

This was just one of the many tips we learned from a number of speakers, who presented it in different ways. Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour spoke to us on day one. Be prepared to think like an editor, publisher, writer, social media manager, videographer, and brand ambassador regardless of what your job title is, she told us. “Everyone needs to care about brand growth and performance,” said Leive. “Writers should think about images; photographers should think about the text; and everyone should think about each individual platform.” We heard the same sentiment from Money Magazine Editor-in-Chief Adam Auriemma at the Time, Inc. panel discussion and reception at their amazing building overlooking the Hudson. “Cover your lane,” he told us, “but don’t expect to stay in just one.”

Find new and creative ways to tell a story:

Brands are constantly feeding consumers new information, and consumers are constantly demanding unique ways to be entertained on multiple channels for a shorter amount of time. The emergence of video has been especially critical for permitting users to engage with brands. In her role as Editor-in-Chief of Condé Nast Traveler, Pilar Guzmán spoke to her responsibility as a “people curator” to keep up with the consumer demand. “Access people that capture the ethos of the brand and use them as a lens to tell a particular story,” she urged us. Doing so has led to more unique Condé Nast Traveler stories with authentic voices and images that enhance the storytelling experience.

Left: Joanna Coles, Chief Content Officer at Hearst Magazines, snaps our students;  Right: Pilar Guzmán, Editor-in-Chief of Condé Nast Traveler, discusses the changing role of the editor.

Trust your gut and be humble:

“Be wary of perfectionism,” said Joanna Coles, Chief Content Officer at Hearst Magazines. “Sometimes you have an instinct and you need to go with it.” For me, this advice was wonderful to hear because it addresses my personal concerns of being new to an industry, or even a job, and striking that balance between growth and putting forth the best work possible. Coles went on to add that if your decision is wrong and you make a mistake, own it. While no one likes being wrong, a lot of people appreciate humility. Similarly, Christine Guilfoyle, Senior Vice President and Publisher of SHAPE and Magnolia Journal, told us to, “Embrace your mistakes and the decisions you’re unsure of. If you haven’t made a mistake, you haven’t made enough decisions.”

Don’t hold yourself back:

This is key in both the program and the industry itself. Even if you think you’re sure of what you want to do and where you want to go, be open to learning and trying new things. Since I am so new to the city and to the industry, I’ve tried to sign-up for as many opportunities as I can. This enthusiastic and curious approach has allowed me and other students to attend the first annual One Book, One New York event with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Americanah. Others worked at Book Expo right before the program started, or are busying themselves in weekend workshops in HTML and InDesign. And there area more opportunities coming soon, including visits to major media companies and a huge career fair where we all will be scrambling to find a job! There’s so many ways to immerse yourself in the business and the city, and I encourage you to try as many of them as you can.

Left: Our 2017 Time Inc. Scholarship winners receiving their awards at Time Inc.’s headquarters; Right: Students network on Time Inc.’s terrace  overlooking the Hudson.

Embrace change and disruption:

For many students, tackling a program like SPI was an important and nerve-wracking career move. Many are traveling from out-of-state, and a few are traveling from other countries. It’s a big life change for many people, and it doesn’t stop there. The industry itself is evolving with the times, and being flexible and going with the flow is key to success for brands (and, according to many speakers, your sanity).

Find Your Passion:

In the media industry, it’s imperative to have an open mind. Many of our speakers had backgrounds and started out in positions that may not directly relate to their current title. Jody Quon, Photography Director of New York Magazine, may have said it best when she told us, “The path to your dream job is not linear. Be flexible and be persistent.” This may mean taking an entry level position in editorial even though your dream job is in marketing, but the experience can be applied to other roles that make you a stronger asset — and who doesn’t want that?

It’s only been a week and, already, my peers and I feel the impact of the opportunities ahead of us thanks to SPI. The speakers and the information are unlike anything we would have found if we were trying this on our own. I know the upcoming posts from my peers will dig even deeper, and I hope you will follow along with this amazing program!

SPIers take their coursework to the streets during a session on how to shoot video on your phone.

by Ashley Spruill



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