Today I’m launching a new feature here at See Jane Write — Media Maven, a series of interviews with women in media. I’ll be talking with women in newspapers, magazines, television, radio, online publications and more.
To kick things off I had a talk with Robin Colter, creative director of B-Metro magazine, a publication for which I write a monthly column. Even though Robin has been editing my work for years I didn’t know much about her journalism journey so I was eager to hear her story.
How long have you been working at B-Metro and what path led you to the magazine? What did you do before?
I helped develop B-Metro from scratch – along with Cathy Fingerman and Joe O’Donnell – nine years ago. Prior to that, I was with Birmingham Magazine for many years. It was exciting to be able to develop something new with what I had learned from working at an established city magazine for so long. We began working on B-Metro in 2009 when many magazines were folding. As exciting as it was to start something new, it was also very daunting.
We’ve seen so many national magazines fold over the past 10 years, but local many magazines seem to be thriving. Why do you think this is the case?
Local magazines connect with their community in a way that national magazines simply can’t.
What do you think makes B-Metro different from other publications in Birmingham?
We try to tell a different kind of story than you normally see in a city magazine. We are not afraid of edgier topics. We have spectacular photographers that work with us each month, so I am also able to the (produce) stories in a very visual manner. While we have a timely component to each issue, we also try to choose stories that have an evergreen quality. I’d like for someone to be able to pick up a copy of the magazine from two years ago and still find value and interest in the content.
Did you always know you wanted to work in magazines?
Not really. My first job was with an automotive advertising agency. I also did a good bit of freelance work at the time and ended up with several magazine projects. I fell in love with editorial production. Birmingham Magazine gave me a call when searching for a new art director and I’ve been working in the magazine field ever since.
Tell us about the personal side of Robin Colter. What do you like to do for fun when you’re not working on the magazine?
When I’m not making magazines I spend a lot of time with my family. I also try to carve out time for creating fine art – painting, sculpting, etc. Although I don’t have as much time for that as I’d like to. Maybe one day…
Do you have any favorite places or restaurants in Birmingham?
There are so many great things about Birmingham that it is really hard to pick just a few favorite things to talk about. One of my favorite places in Birmingham is Red Mountain Park, where my family spends a lot of time hiking and running. It’s so peaceful there and such an easy escape from life’s stresses. I love hitting Pepper Place for the Saturday Market. And I definitely enjoy our diverse food scene. My favorite restaurant is Gian Marcos, but there are many that could come in as a close second.
What would you say to young people who are interested in journalism but are afraid the industry is dying?
Journalism is definitely changing. Still, there will always need to be people who are willing to ask the questions and tell the stories. With so much informational “clutter” out there that we will continue to need people who can do good, thoughtful and responsible writing – not just the generation of “content”.
What advice would you give to See Jane Write readers who would like to write for B-Metro?
Bring ideas to the table along with your writing skills. We’re looking for great story ideas, not just writers. Pitch us a great idea. Think out of the box when you’re formulating that idea. I’ve been working at a city magazine for over 20 years now, so I’ve heard or produced a lot of the stories that people tend to come to us with already. Don’t be surprised if it takes several pitches before something sticks. If I say no to something, it’s not because I don’t like you. I’ve probably just heard it before.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given or the best advice you have to give regarding working in media?
Take on any project that someone will give to you. Don’t be too narrow in your focus until you really know for sure where you’re headed. In the beginning, it is so important to try many things and make as many connections as possible. The path will show itself. Be patient.
Is there a media maven you would like me to interview? Leave your suggestions in the comments are send recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.