Last week, Birmingham magazine won the national City and Regional Magazine Award for redesign.
It was the culmination of several years’ of hard work and changes. I’ve been at Birmingham magazine for six-and-a-half years now, and two years prior to joining the staff, I spent four months as an editorial intern. I have a lot vested in this publication, and so the recognition was incredibly meaningful to me.
I was part of the team involved in the redesign, but perhaps more importantly, I’ve been with the magazine through several years of significant changes. We’ve seen several changes in ownership; in the magazine’s 48th year, the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce merged with the Metropolitan Development Board to form the Birmingham Business Alliance. One month prior to the magazine’s 50th anniversary, Birmingham magazine was purchased by the Birmingham News Multimedia Co. Last summer, that company became part of the newly formed Alabama Media Group. Like any company, we’ve also seen a variety of staffing changes through the years. Many of these changes have been positive, but all change comes with a learning curve. So I was particularly thrilled to see our work recognized at the national level.
What surprised me was the way others reacted. When a colleague posted the photo above on the magazine’s Facebook page, it quickly received 150-plus “likes” by our followers. When I posted another image on my Facebook timeline, more than 100 of my friends hit the like button. The ad agency with which we partnered shared it on their timeline, and nearly 50 people liked it. Everywhere I went last week, I received congratulations: from readers, from friends, from family, from contributors.
It reminded me of why my work matters, and why I’m so passionate about it. I fell in love with writing as an elementary-school student. I didn’t turn to it as a career for the same noble reasons that attract so many others; I wanted to be a writer because I like writing, and because I like seeing my work in print.
But during the course of my years in the field, I’ve also realized what value there is in sharing stories with the community you serve. That first hit home for me when I was at the Tuscaloosa News, writing about a young girl with a brain tumor. After another child saw my story, she decided her lemonade stand should raise money for the sick child. That day, she raised more than $1,000.
The way I perceive the communities I serve has changed, as well. While working as a reporter in Tuscaloosa, I grew to love the city more than I had as a student. Reporting means I get to know the people who shape a community while listening to the community’s concerns. That has remained true as I went on to work in Cullman and, for the past seven years, in Birmingham.
The conference that was capped by this awards ceremony encouraged me and provided more insight into how to create a magazine that tells my city’s stories. And my city’s response to the award reiterated that people care about those stories. I’m so fortunate to call this my life’s work.
The subject line comes from Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires’ “Magic City Stomp.” I woke up this morning with their music in my head, and it’s awfully appropriate: The band members are from Alabama, and Bains currently lives in Atlanta, where we received this award.