Friday, June 13, 2008

"All the News That Fits"

Well, we're big rock singers/We got golden fingers/And we're loved everywhere we go..... (that sounds like us)/We sing about beauty and we sing about truth/At ten-thousand dollars a show..... (right)/We take all kinds of pills that give us all kind of thrills/But the thrill we've never known/Is the thrill that'll gitcha when you get your picture/On the cover of the Rolling Stone.”

With these words (penned by non other than Shel Silverstein), Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show achieved both chart-topping success and their long-standing dream: their faces on the cover of music’s most respected publication, Rolling Stone Magazine. Like the good doctor and his band of medical musicians, I’ve long fantasized about my picture on the front of this legendary bi-weekly. As I moved further towards adulthood and reality, however, I discovered a few key details holding me back from said dream. First and foremost, I’m no rockstar, at least not the kind with Top 40 potential; I doubt three years of concert handbells experience qualifies me to open for The White Stripes. I’m also no famous actor or comedian, one of the rare exceptions The Stone makes for their cover. Lastly, I’m not photogenic. Guess that counts me out for a potential gig as Mariah Carey’s arm candy whenever she makes her next cover.

Taking these various epiphanies in stride, I’ve changed my dreams significantly. I don’t want to just be on the cover, I want to be the guy who chooses who’s on the cover. When I checked the company’s website in late December for job openings, though, “benevolent dictator” didn’t show up on the openings page, so I had to go with the next best thing: summer intern. A few emails later, and my resume and cover letter were in the hands of Rolling Stone’s internship coordinator, my name thrown into the ring for a spot assisting the editors of my favorite magazine. Sort of.

See, what I didn’t realize until much, much later is that Rolling Stone (or rather, Wenner Media LLC, its parent company) offers several different types of internships at its various publications. Let this experience stand as my first of many lessons to come when applying for summer jobs: ALWAYS CLARIFY AS TO THE EXACT NATURE OF WHAT YOU’LL BE DOING. Unbeknownst to me, the powers that be assigned me to the Marketing/Advertising branch of Rolling Stone, not really where I imagined myself working for two and a half months. Just to give a quick spoiler, this mixup hasn’t ruined my summer. If anything, it’s opened my mind to new experiences and multiple aspects of magazine publication. I don’t care if you’re a movie reviewer who hates numbers, it’s important to know how the people in Marketing insure you get that nice paycheck every month. Obviously my duties are different than those of an editorial intern, but there is a good bit of overlap.

Before I delve into the finer points of being the low man on the publishing totem pole, I’ve decided to fill my first blog entry with some vital background info regarding both Rolling Stone Magazine and myself. Growing up in a small town, I had to rely on movies to learn life’s essential lessons: never talk to strangers, be punctual, and sit facing the door in case someone from a rival mob family enters with bad intentions. So coming into this summer, I thought I pretty much had my bases covered. Two weeks in, though, I’ve come to think New York might just teach me a few new pointers in this wonderful game of life. It’s a pretty decent setting which also happens to mimic the plot of Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous: aspiring young journalist takes on the world and achieves fame despite his naivety in this big, big universe. A few key aspects, however, have shifted in the past 30 years: rock sold out, rap rolled in, and you can forget about an editorial career in this economy. Thanks a bunch, Kate Hudson.

As for my employer, Wenner Media, a quick glance at Wikipedia yields a fairly comprehensive history. Rolling Stone was founded in 1967 by modern media-mogul Jann Wenner (shown at the right in 1979), who launched the publication after borrowing $7500 from family and friends. Wenner described his magazine as containing “all the news that fits,” a phrase that has since become The Stone’s motto and the title of this particular blog entry. Starting with the first cover, which featured John Lennon, the magazine caught the public’s attention much more effectively than a multitude of competing publications. Such notoriety came about in large part due to the advent of The Rolling Stone Interview, an excellent source of insight for fans about artists who might otherwise remain hush. Wenner became famous for discovering talent and launched the careers of such journalistic icons as photographer Annie Leibovitz, gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson, and filmmaker Cameron Crowe (who began contributing to the magazine at age 15). Wenner is also largely responsible for transforming the roll of magazine covers from catchy selling points to profound cultural statements (although the two roles are rarely mutually exclusive). In more recent years, Wenner Media acquired both Men’s Journal and Us Weekly, pushing both the company and its founder to the forefront of newsstand dominance. Obviously there’s a lot to live up to if I’ve got any chance of taking over someday.

Now that you have all* the necessary background, I suppose it’s time for a disclaimer: for my soon-to-be loyal readers, I ask only that you look at everything as objectively as possible despite any sensationalism on my part. If I ever sound frustrated with those menial tasks plaguing us interns, remember that I’m working for the universe’s coolest magazine and those tedious assignments go towards producing said publication. If I ever go off the deep end with an inflated sense of power and self-importance, remember that I am just an intern. Everyone clear? Great.

Next week I’ll go in-depth about what exactly I do from day-to-day, the people I work with, and the importance of having a lunch buddy. Oh, and you might even get some pictures from around the office. Excited yet?


*In the context of this and each future blog entry, “all” is entirely up to the discretion and fancy of David Thomas Tao, II.