Day 271: Pitch to Chicago magazine

June 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

If there exists such thing as a grad school field trip, we took one today to the Tribune Tower to visit the offices of Chicago magazine, where one of my magazine writing professors serves as Senior Editor.

By Antonio Vernon

While the gothic architecture of the lobby – complete with stone, wood beams and stenciled journalism quotes – was beautiful, our exploration of the building ended there. After arriving on the eleventh floor, we were confined to a small conference room, where our professor had to “drag” her fellow editors in to come talk with us.

We were offered the opportunity to pitch ideas to the editors, face-to-face. This is far more intimidating than query letter composition, where you can send a faceless email and shrug off a rejection. Initially, we were all pretty nervous to suggest anything, but keeping in mind the mission statement of the Novice du Jour, I volunteered to present a story idea.

I pitched an article about the Mayne Stage, which I visited on Day 265, with the following selling points:

  • History – The original theater was built in 1912, and experienced iterations as a synagogue and shoe store before its recent renovation.
  • Diamond in the rough – The cabaret theater, complete with flat-panel TVs and leather seating, sits in the midst of a historically lousy neighborhood.
  • Anniversary –  The theater, which opened last June, is approaching it’s one-year anniversary.
The editor asked me if I would read an article about such a subject. She seemed skeptical when I answered, “Yes.” Apparently cool historical stories are not typical fodder for the pages of Chicago magazine. But then again, this pitch is coming from the mind of a guy who spent his free time this week watching Ken Burns’ Civil War on instant Netflix.
Perhaps I need to come to terms with the fact that what Tyler like isn’t necessarily mainstream.
So the editor put me down, but to her credit, she did it gently. She recommended I reconceive the idea as a piece about gentrifying rough neighborhoods, which isn’t really my style, but maybe I need to get over that. So it’s back to the drawing board – where we journalists produce our most precious currency: ideas.

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