When I Was The Editor Of A Magazine

Actually, I was Editor in Chief. It’s a big title, and since I’ll probably never have it again, I feel like I can justifiably throw it around. I had cards that said “Lesley Arfin: Editor In Chief” and for a whole two issues, my name appeared second to the top on the masthead. I even got to do a whole “Letter From The Editor” type thing. It was a real job at a real magazine and I was (sort of) the boss.

Saying “I’m the boss” does not lead you into a world of popularity, but in fact the opposite. Unfortunately I’m the type of person who learns by her mistakes. So yeah, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t that well liked at my job. But first let me tell you how a very under qualified person such as myself won such a prestigious position. It wasn’t by using fancy words such as “prestigious” either.

It was the opposite. I was a blogger. Well first, I wrote a book, and before that I wrote a column, but when I was hired to run this magazine I was just a blogger with a hotel reservationist gig on the side. Or the blogging was on the side. Whatever. Really what happened is that I went to India. I left my job for a month and took whatever little book royalties I had managed to accumulate and decided to spend it all on India. India was like a brain rape that took a rape shower in a brain bath. It was insane. In India they don’t really have running water but they do have running Internet. The Internet in India runneth over, so I wrote. Everyday, in blog-form, I wrote about what I was going through in India. It was mostly funny over-exaggerations, and to be honest I didn’t think anyone was really paying attention.

As it turned out, the founder of a young miss magazine was a big fan. We’ll call it “Young Miss.” Young Miss was cute, quarterly, and very urban. I had always liked it but found it to be a bit boom box –and-gold-fronts heavy. It was very that, and I didn’t always see it on the shelves but when I did, I bought it. I was a fan of theirs as well.

So the founder asked me if I wanted to be “Editor At Large.” I said, “What do I have to do?” She said “pretty much nothing. Just write some stuff for us.” That seemed easy enough so I said yes. After two months with that title I got another phone call from her, which I immediately just assumed that she was calling to tell me it wasn’t working out. “We want you to be Editor In Chief.”

Now I knew that was a job that meant I actually had to do stuff. Like a lot of stuff. Like more than just write an article about going to a psychic (I wrote that when I was Editor At Large—sick article), but really I don’t know how to do much more than that. I’m not a person with a variety of talents.

She said she didn’t care, that she had faith in me, and that they’d all help show me the ropes. “Okay,” I told her. “I’ll do it. But if the magazine folds, don’t be mad at me.”

Of course what happened next was that my ego took over. I was nervous of course for the job, but I also thought in some strange leftover acid trip that I actually deserved it. While I can safely say that I did the best job I could, and for someone who didn’t know what she was doing, it was a really good job, I can admit however that I did NOT deserve this position. People work at magazines for years with a sliver of a hope that they might one day be able to work their way up to this title. I am not and have never been one of those people. Looking back I can understand a lot better the feelings of inadequacy I had at the magazine, as well as the many dirty looks I felt I was getting behind my back. They weren’t just “feelings.” The weirdness was palpable.

My first order of business as the next Anna Wintour was to cut out all things urban. That may have worked for the old Young Miss, but under the regime of Arfin, it was time to get nasty. This was during a time when I was under the influence of fashion magazines. I thought being a woman meant wearing heels everyday no matter what, and even though I pretended not to be fascinated by “It girls”, I was. What, can I say? It was a phase I was going through. It lasted a year at the most.

Because really what ended up happening wasn’t that I was able to change Young Miss. At the risk of sounding cliché, Young Miss changed me. I went in there a writer, but I left an editor. It was because the girls there, even when they may have hated me, helped me figure it all out. And yeah, we toned down the urban stuff but I also got a little bit more into it. I mean, I ended up going out with a white rapper as a direct result of working there, so word up to that.

I was the Editor In Chief for two issues before we folded, but I SWEAR it wasn’t my fault. Or was it? I don’t know, but the founder kept her promise and was not mad at me. Staff morale was low because they missed they old editor and I didn’t do coke afterhours. The recession hit and someone said “PRINT IS DEAD!” and everyone suddenly believed it. I was strong, but I wasn’t strong enough to carry the whole thing on my back and keep it going. Almost overnight everyone in the office had been fired or turned “freelance.” Then we were a website with a staff of three.

Then we were a website with a staff of two.

Then one morning I got a phone call from my boss telling me she was over it and not to go into work that day. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little relieved.

What I loved most about being an Editor In Chief wasn’t the making of a magazine or the managing of a staff or all the ideas we had floating in our little creative thinking caps. All that stuff was fine and everything but what I really loved was the actual editing part. I loved reading stuff by other writers and making it, if I do say so myself, just a little bit better. I loved it because I felt it was actually helping to strengthen my own work. I think I have a knack for editing, and I never would have known that if it weren’t for that job.

But what I really loved most about being an Editor In Chief, above all other things, was being able to call myself the Editor In Chief. That was my title bitches! SUCK IT. TC mark


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  • Meg

    The mag, and you, changed my life, Miss Arfin. Mucho amor.

  • http://twitter.com/KelleyHoffman Kelley Hoffman

    when you took over “young miss” it went up infinity points.

  • Caitlin

    Yeah, yeah. I was an EIC. Looks good on a resume….and then?

    Sounds like you had fun, and that's what counts.

  • Pewpdude

    After a quick stint as Editor-In-Chief of the also defunct Missbehave Magazine, Lesley went on to travel and write freelance.

  • http://twitter.com/Erikhaspresence Erik Stinson

    is this a tumblr post about death?

  • lola

    Can someone explain what happens to the magazines subcriptions when a magazine folds over? Do people demand their money back? Or how is that managed?

  • SuperVixen

    The fold had NOTHING to do with you. You know this. You were amazing. An EIC with Moxie, with Chutzpah, if you will. Independent publishing is a bitch and our resources were tapped. Your issues were beautiful. I wish we could have made more editorial love together. I miss our office. I miss Young Miss.

  • http://www.ladygunn.com Merry

    Agreed. I love your writing. Also not to so plug happy but check out Ladygunn Magazine. I would love to know what you guys think as far as “Young Miss” mags go. It's fun and Arfin is in the first issue.

  • mer

    I (and my bf) loved missbehave and we were both very very sad to see it go. I stuck around the website for a while after the print version died. RIP!!! Love you, Arfin!

  • Yourmom

    yeah i remember your ego going completely bonkers. also, i was the one that told “the founder” about your blog and how awesome would it be to have you writing for the mag in the hopes of making it less urban…yet it fucking backfired on me since once you were hired you treated me like shit on a daily basis. yeah good job on ruining it for everyone arfin. i will forever hate you for this.

  • Annika

    Wasn't a fan of that magazine, but I like Lesley. I remember the article about dating skateboarders, and why dating them is a bad idea (was that when you were EIC?), and well, it's pretty much true. I thought the magazine was all fancy fonts, no substance for the most part though. It was fucking illegible for the most part.

  • UrbnOutLvr

    Wow Lesley,
    Did you ever consider that the magazine failed because it alienated it's core readership? When it launched it served a completely under-recognized population…then suddenly it pushed them aside and began chasing an audience already served by Paper, Nylon and the Urban Outfitters catalog. That category is full full full…no need for another publication there.

  • http://www.vegansteven.com amakerlee

    I discovered this magazine due to boys actually. I only kept up with the site due to a certain writer who didn't seem to have any airs about them. That writer was honest, smart, and damn good at writing.
    I find it amusing that its been over a year and you ladies are still telling “your” version of a story, that reads with very lackluster details, that people don't care about. The coke comment is just catty and uncalled for. I find it strange that your sob story is that people didn't like you because they missed doing coke and the old editor – when you stated right before it was your ego.
    I am speaking as a former reader, and as and adult. Attitude comes across in text, especially in such real time as the internet. This article to me, proved that you are just an egotistical person. It's very ego driven, mainly because the magazine folded so long ago, and you were there for a blip on the radar, right before the recession. Anyone who isn't egotistical wouldn't try to blame themselves for the demise, over a year later.

    The magazine folded because it was backed by someone with money. People who just have a shit-ton of money from not working that hard – run magazines for fun, and hire people to do the grunt work. Therefore, shutting it down with no notice isn't that big of a deal for them.
    I find it sad that there are a lot of young women who read this magazine, and are probably reading these catty expose-like articles. When you could be making more of an impact and writing about things that actually matter – you decide to write this. Some shit about how you were an editor once, at a hard to find teen magazine, you didn't deserve it, and people hated you. Instead of writing, and being honest about mistakes you may have made – you decide to make others seem bad, because of the way you were treated.

    At the end of the day girls with be catty insecure girls – no matter how cool they think they are.

  • http://twitter.com/jewelstwts ashlee jewel

    she inspires me. :)

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