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Blogs and mags

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I’m here in steamy New York at Wine Enthusiast, where for the past 3 days we’ve been planning out our 2010 editorial calendar and other things to improve the magazine and prepare it for the future.

We have a really great team. These meetings, which last from 8 a.m. through the end of the workday and then lead to long and uproarious dinners at local restaurants, have led me to two realizations. One is that, when you’ve worked together as long as we have (in most cases more than 10 years) you develop a well-oiled machine that’s capable of getting a great deal done with a minimum of misunderstanding and explanation. The other has been a musing on the differences between putting out a magazine and writing a blog.

I won’t say writing a blog is easy because it isn’t. You have to have a solid topic and write it with precisely the effort it takes to say what you mean to say. On the other hand you’re by yourself when you blog; it’s not collaborative (although there’s certainly a degree of collaboration when you a collective part of the world of social media).When you blog, you don’t have discussions about topics with your friends and co-workers, who might see things a little differently and give you pause.

Coming up with ideas for magazine stories takes a far different process. It’s more like the creative process involved in a marriage. “Honey, let’s go out for Chinese tonight.” “I don’t feel like Chinese. How about that Gyro place?” “It wasn’t so good last time. Deli?” And finally you compromise on the new Italian restaurant and each of you has a sense of win-win.

We finally hammered out a tentative editorial calendar by late yesterday: every feature story, large and small, every wine-and-food pairing, every entertainment concept. You look for balance in each issue — balance of geographical coverage, of wines (and beer and spirits), of feeling. And when the meeting was over, we looked at what we had created and, behold, it was good. Of course, I say it’s a “tentative” calender, because you never know what breaking news there’s going to be 8 or 10 months from now, so some story may have to be scrapped, and replaced by a sudden new one, at a moment’s notice. That’s when magazine writing becomes more like blogging: when it has “the fierce urgency of now.”

I love both kinds of writing, magazines and blogging. Each is capable of reflecting truth in a different way. I wouldn’t put one above the other. But I do profoundly value the collaborative process, and particularly the one we have at our magazine team. It’s not always easy or without conflict. People have points of view and, believe me, this crew tends to express them with vigor. But in the end we wind up with a stronger product, and at the end of the day, over many bottles of fine wine and plates of good food, we come together to celebrate. Last night’s dinner was especially fun because we were joined by a surprise guest: Jean-Charles Boisset, who was in town on business. He certainly raised the fun level as only he can. Today, it’s on to a new round of meetings, and possibilities.

I’ll be back in Oakland late tomorrow (Thursday), and will have a new post up Friday morning.

  1. Steve, I’ve been curious of this for a while now. Would you say you hold both tenants while writing your blog? It’s not uncommon to go on a splurge, writing multiple topics in advance, which are balanced by “the fierce urgency of now” you described when you come across a news article or personal experience and react at that moment. So which is it for you? Whatever is in your mind on that day at that given moment or a blend of the two principles?

  2. Nice to see you talking about WE, and giving us this bird’s eye view of your “day job.”

    Have a safe flight back to the Bay Area.

  3. Dylan, not sure I understand your question, but…I wrote Mon. and Tues. blogs last week cuz I knew I’d be crazy busy in NY. Wrote Wed. post early Wed. from my hotel room b4 meetings began. In general I don’t know what I’m going to write until blog morning or maybe the day before.

  4. Dylan, not sure I understand your question, but…I wrote Mon. and Tues. blogs last week cuz I knew I’d be crazy busy in NY. Wrote Wed. post early Wed. from my hotel room b4 meetings began. In general I don’t know what I’m going to write until blog morning or maybe the day before.

  5. Haha, sorry that I wasn’t clear, but you still managed. That answered my question, thanks.

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