Archives for July 2012


Editors at Work: How to Do Good Service Stories

By Jack Limpert

When I started at The Washingtonian in 1969, two city magazines were worth looking at for ideas.

One was Philadelphia, which back in the 1960s did the best reporting and civic journalism of any city magazine in the country, maybe of any magazine in the country. Its editor, Alan Halpern, created a magazine that came up with one great reporting piece after another about what was happening in his city.

Editors at Work: Doing Stories About People

By Jack Limpert

Let’s say that one rule of magazine editing should be that you can’t have too many good people stories. I’m old enough to remember when People magazine started in 1974. The Time magazine reporters I talked with back then laughed it off, saying that Time was real journalism–politics, the economy, world affairs–while People was just celebrity fluff. But People was very shrewdly edited, mixing plenty of stories of real people in with the celebrities. As the years went by, People  grew and grew and Time and the other newsmagazines got smaller. U.S. News & World Report is gone, Newsweek is on life support, and Time’s ad and circulation revenues continue to fall. How much do readers value People and Time? A year of People is $112, while Time is $30. Ad revenues are even more skewed in favor of People.

What Works in Local Journalism

By Jack Limpert

A few years ago, I came back from a meeting of city magazine editors and tried to distill for our staff at The Washingtonian the editing approaches and ideas we’d talked about. Here’s that wrapup:

Be useful, be helpful. Readers should feel the magazine understands their needs and problems — finding a good restaurant, a reliable plumber, great day trips, best financial planners — and has made a real effort to help. You have to protect your credibility when you do this. The reader should feel your advice can be trusted.

Editors at Work: What Kind of Design Brings in Readers

By Jack Limpert

Editors spend lots of time trying to come up with good story ideas, working with writers, editing stories. But if the magazine doesn’t have good heads, decks and captions, a lot of those stories are likely to go unread.

Many readers graze—they flip through the pages looking for something that captures their attention. The elements that go with a story can be the difference between a reader spending 10 minutes with a magazine or an hour.

Heads and decks are important, but in reading lots of city magazines, I think picture captions are the most underappreciated element of all.