My bleeding heart is shriveling up
August 28, 2007 9:04 AM   Subscribe

So I moved to Brooklyn, landed a great magazine internship in the city, and seem to be on the right track professionally. One problem: I'm restless and want to leave NYC. Will I sabotage my future as a magazine journalist by leaving Manhattan, the mecca of magazines?

It's not that I dislike New York--there are times when I really, truly believe in this city, especially Brooklyn. But more often I'm wary that I'm wasting my youth in the bowels of the universe where I hate my commute, I hate tourists, I hate slow walkers, and I stare through any poor soul asking for change on the street. I'm bitter, neurotic, self-absorbed, and obsessed with work. Everyone in my office--and in a 5 mile vicinity--is the same way. Paradoxically, I also hate people who blithely write off these traits as merit badges for becoming a New Yorker. I moved here thinking I was happening upon a great literary community of engaged, well-read people, but little has turned up.

In short, my job makes me happy, the city doesn't. Thwarting my relocation ambitions is the sinking realization that I lack the self-discipline to freelance, making an in-house journalism job nigh imperative. So what happens if I move? I really love Chicago, but I can't think of any notable magazines or lit hubs there, except the Poetry Foundation and (yikes) Time Out Chicago. What else is out there?

Or should I wipe the city grime from my eyes and keep seeking out the elusive literati lurking in some Brooklyn nook?
posted by zoomorphic to Work & Money (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
uhm... the problem is not the city, it's the people you (don't) associate with. get onto finding them, try and similar suspects. you can be just as unhappy anywhere else if you think merely moving somewhere will fix it.
posted by krautland at 9:13 AM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

What kind of magazine do you want to work for? In These Times is based in the Windy City. That's the only one I know of. You can work for the Oprah/Harpo brand, though I think Best Friend Gayle lives in NYC and edits O magazine there. Not sure, though. Google "Chicago, magazine" and see what you get. Looks like there are quite a few niche publications based there. There are a lot of political journalism jobs in DC and even in every state capitol. NPR affiliates are everywhere, as are local newspapers. But magazines journalism is to NYC as film & TV acting is to LA. You really have to live there to have options.
I'd stay in Brooklyn for the time being and keep building your resume. Once a magazine gets to know your ability and body of work, it might let you live anywhere as a correspondent/contributing editor and send your work in. That's where most long-form journalism pieces come from, anyway.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:17 AM on August 28, 2007

How long have you been here? You asked a question about getting the job back in October 2006, so I'm assuming you've been here less than a year. The first year, before you know a lot of people, is really tough. I didn't have a "social life", or even very many good friends. But then I started making more of an effort to go places where I could meet people I had things in common with (church, Metafilter meetups, friends' parties, Nonsense NYC events...) and things improved immensely. Now I have more social invitations than I have time for. This will happen for you, too. It's too soon for you to give up on New York, both socially and employment wise. Keep trying; things will get better.

Oh, and in case you're interested: Several MeFi meetups coming up in the month of September.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:24 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Krautland: Understood. So maybe I should have focused on the main question: can I leave New York (maybe for Chicago, maybe elsewhere) without severely limiting my professional options?

HotPatatta: I'm most focused on women's issues (actual political and cultural issues, not how to give my boyfriend multiple orgasms), local politics, literature, pop culture. Broad enough to allow me to consider a lot of avenues.

All: My complaints about New York might have thrown everyone off: I do like this city, but I don't want to set up shop here for the next 30 years of my life. I'd like to see some other places, and then maybe return when I'm older, more responsible, and ready to commit to a city that has the most jobs in my field. I'm just scared I'll screw myself over job-wise and won't have any reason to come back to Manhattan in five years.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:33 AM on August 28, 2007

Best answer: You really do need to give it time. I work for a magazine, it's a decent job, but my life shines when I leave the building. It's taken time to get to this point though. For example, I started biking to work because I hated the gross subway commute at rush hour, and now a whole new world of tpast times has been opened up to me because of the bike. I started a ramshackle webzine with friends to keep myself motivated. My secret weapon is that I accept almost every invitation that is extended to me, because while I am here my mission is to hunt down the best possible life, having spent most of my life "making do". The shock you are feeling is the inevitable shock of transplant, and while NYC really may not be your town, if you leave it now, you won't have given it (or yourself) a fair shake.

I can't tell you what to do, all I can say is that I've been there, and that there really is more. More more more. I can't tell you where to find your "more" (at least not in the scope of AskMe) but I promise it exists.

Also, if you want to get coffee sometime and bitch about work and magazines and the rest of it, email is in profile. I live in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area and try to extend twice as many invitations as I receive (there, I spilled the other half of my secret).
posted by hermitosis at 9:47 AM on August 28, 2007 [3 favorites]

Yes, you will severely limit your options. NYC is, as you point out, the mecca of magazines.

Limiting your options is not necessarily career suicide. But don't throw away that foot in the door you've got in magazineland NYC. I think you should build a really substantial resume and establish yourself professionally over the next five years. If you play your cards right, you can THEN look to move wherever you like.
posted by desuetude at 9:55 AM on August 28, 2007

But more often I'm wary that I'm wasting my youth in the bowels of the universe where I hate my commute, I hate tourists, I hate slow walkers, and I stare through any poor soul asking for change on the street. I'm bitter, neurotic, self-absorbed, and obsessed with work. Everyone in my office--and in a 5 mile vicinity--is the same way.

I think working at a magazine can bring out those traits in anyone, actually. I know it does in me. It really can be a rough field, and "magazine hours" are ridiculous sometimes, leaving us protectively clutching our off-hours. And none of us get paid enough.

Luckily, I work at a magazine in St. Louis, and when I leave the office, I'm surrounded by people who aren't obsessed with work like that.

Thwarting my relocation ambitions is the sinking realization that I lack the self-discipline to freelance, making an in-house journalism job nigh imperative.

I'm completely with you there; I can't function well as a writer or editor without the structure that the office setting gives me. That's why I've doggedly stuck to the path of becoming an in-house editor—just recently scored the first non-internship, non-freelance editor position, actually, on that path.

Since you're at the internship stage right now, you should be looking for the next step: an assistant editor, associate editor or editorial assistant position. And yes, you should be looking for it outside of New York City, if you can. There are lots of positions out there—you should be scouring's listings and subscribing to's e-mail list.

I also hate people who blithely write off these traits as merit badges for becoming a New Yorker.

As well you should. And I hate the idea, widely promulgated, that one must live in New York City to make a living as a magazine editor, or that any clips from publications outside of The City are worthless. There's a lot of life out there between the coasts, and it will not cost you your career to move out of The City.

That said, you haven't been there that long, and as desuetude notes, if you can climb the ladder there for just a little bit longer (perhaps score that first AE or EA job there and stick with it for a while), you may get farther—'cause that job will have a lot of currency with anyone outside The City.

Long-term...there are lots of options either way, and you're not going to limit yourself terribly if you get out and see the rest of America.
posted by limeonaire at 10:05 AM on August 28, 2007

But won't you be leaving the fort? Anyway, with your talk of tourists/slow walkers etc. I am guessing you work near 42nd street, where a ton of mags are. Changing scenes will help a lot...stick with the city, but try a different neighborhood.
posted by sweetkid at 10:28 AM on August 28, 2007

Response by poster: It's not about the fort, it's the fundamental ethos of having a fort, which is nothing if not a protest against growing up and losing one's optimism and and youthful wonder (thanks, New York!). Besides, there are pillows and flashlights in Chicago.

Too bad though, because there seem to be very few magazine jobs there, aside from the inevitable local events-centered things.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:48 AM on August 28, 2007

Best answer: I'm not in the magazine business, but if I were you, I'd stick it out for a few years. Think of it as professional school that you get paid for (even if you don't get paid particularly well).

The media game is played at a very high level there. If the work itself doesn't kill you (and it doesn't sound like that is your problem right now) then you'll hone your skills and tactics there in a way that will be harder pretty much anywhere else.

Second, spend a few years there and you'll build more of a professional network which will help you. People you've worked with will leave NYC too, and may be able to help you land in another city. Similarly, if you want to freelance, you'll have contacts in NYC who know your work. Conversely, you'll have a line on hiring talented people who are themselves ready to flee NYC.
posted by Good Brain at 11:15 AM on August 28, 2007

Coming from a print journalist:

You need to be networking a lot more than you are and stop trying to break into places where you haven't made friends yet.

You like Brooklyn? Write about Brooklyn for Brooklyn. That alone could get you into the fold of larger papers and local mags in Manhattan.

There is the Brooklyn Eagle, Bay Currents, Our Time Press, and the Brooklyn Paper. These are all great places to call and pitch stories about neighborhoods. There are also lots and lots of blogs about the area that will probably give you a regular (if unpaid at first) gig that can come in handy while you are networking for paid opportunities.

It really comes down to how old you are and how you are getting your pocket money. If you came to New York on a trust fund, then you might be feeling some parental pressure to get your act together. That means the first people who need to see your writing, after an editor, are your parents. They need to know that you really are trying and not going out drinking every night on their dime.

Internships are an excellent way forward, but they are not the best way in. Why not stick it out for a year and then do the publishing masters degree at Columbia School of Journalism next summer, that will put you in touch with everybody and likely land you a job after the course with someone who will pay you a meaningful salary to do meaningful work and writing. If your only skill is writing, that is going to hold you back.
posted by parmanparman at 11:47 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

There are a hundred people getting off the train every day, and tons of them leave after a year or two. The people who do stay would say it is because the leavers couldn't hack it (and in some moments I'd say the same thing), but the alternate reading is that you don't want to. And that's okay. I like being the kind of person who hates tourists and slow walkers; you clearly don't. So leave and make a spot at the magazine for someone who does love it; help rents come down by making one more little vacancy. Or stick it out and stop whining.
posted by dame at 11:47 AM on August 28, 2007

If you are also not cold-calling smaller publishers of local magazines and newspapers, then you are really not trying to be a journalist.
posted by parmanparman at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2007

The Columbia publishing program people are a tight knit group. Seriously, it would be great to do something with them if you'd like to stay in the field. They're all friends and bend over backwards to help each other.
posted by sweetkid at 11:55 AM on August 28, 2007

Best answer: I moved here thinking I was happening upon a great literary community of engaged, well-read people, but little has turned up.

It sounds possible to me that it's not your job so much that makes you unhappy, it's that the ancillary social life that comes with it might not be the one that you expected. This is a problem pretty particular, IMO, to huge cities like NYC.

There are a ridiculous number of people here, and the general attitude is not one conducive to making random friends. So what happens to a lot of transplants is that they hang out with the same people they work with, and maybe a layer or two of their coworker's friends outside of that. There is usually a pretty common set of beliefs/behavior/lifestyles/backgrounds in that group. This selection process makes you think everyone in NYC is just like the group that you spend time with, as that group can be very, very large, even though it's a tiny slice of whole city.

It happened to me. The first time I lived in NY I lived and worked with a huge group of aspiring dancers/actors/singers (I was one of them). I left with the impression that everyone in NYC was a neurotic, coke-addled attention whore, because I knew 500 people exactly like that.

Now I'm back as a professor and I don't know anyone like that (outside two or three from my old group of friends who are still here). I know lots of thoughtful, laid-back, literary people that don't at all fit your description of New Yorkers. So it can be more about your social circle than you might think.

What to do about it? Make some different friends. How is another matter. Time will give you more and more opportunities to meet some people outside your social circle. I have met a couple of people through MF, so that's an option.
posted by overhauser at 12:14 PM on August 28, 2007

Best answer: Having been more or less in your shoes, I say you should do what you want to do.

You are probably fairly young. Why worry about what's going to happen five years down the road when you're "older, more responsible, and ready to commit to a city that has the most jobs in [your] field"? Who knows what you'll even want in five years?

Do you want work to be the centre of your life? Do you want your primary motivation in your environment to be career potential? Do you feel that success requires following a very specific career path? Do you think that will fulfill you?

Maybe you will say yes to those questions. Personally? I say no. I question the merit of following a life plan someone else came up with. If it doesn't satisfy me, I shouldn't do it. I ask WHY I'm making the choices I make. I have to have an answer for myself.

I just quit a very secure career job to go be a temp and move to another city. That's because the only thing keeping me in that job was fear of the unknown -- I didn't even know what I thought the unknown would be. I just needed the stability. But I was also miserable. I wasn't in control of my own life anymore. My job controlled my life -- everything else was secondary and revolved around it, right down to my bodily functions. When I saw that, I knew with complete certainty that it is no way for me to live.

Since I gave notice I have felt more creative and been more productive in my personal interests than I had in memory. I feel like I own myself again. I'm steering the ship. I even have more will to do the dishes! Every day I become more certain I did the right thing for me.

I just wish people who are unhappy in their circumstances would ask themselves just what is holding them back, anyway. What is holding you back? Just the worry that you won't have a ready-made spot in a very cutthroat industry? Are there other ways you could do what you love and find happiness in life? Do you need time to figure it out? Take it. Just don't waste time being unnecessarily unhappy without a damn good reason.
posted by loiseau at 1:25 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

There's merit to "sticking it out" to be sure how you feel about something, but don't stick it out just continuing to be unhappy. Life is too short.
posted by loiseau at 1:27 PM on August 28, 2007

What about Venus? It's a feminist-leaning, widely distributed pop-culture magazine based in Chicago.

You could also check out the Chicago Reader, although ownership has changed hands and they seem to be headed towards (unfortunate) formatting changes.

Also- Chicago Public Radio is in the process of expanding and creating neighborhood branches. You might check them out as a producer friend of mine told me recently that they were hiring quite a few people.

Good luck!
posted by macrowave at 4:33 PM on August 28, 2007

Quality is an asset that is always recognized. It does not matter where you were, if you come to NYC with abilities, you will find work. If nothing else, NYC is a meritocracy of the first order.

Seconding loiseau's comment. There are hundreds of cities in NYC. Over the time I lived there I lived in at least four and spent significant amounts of time visiting many others - from ballerinas at Lincoln Center to the plumbing-supply shop on the Bowery, from college kids in the West village to the Tibetan exile community. From the Subway Inn to Bemelmanns to KGB (the last a bar you might want to check out if you ahven't already).

In people the city is (truly) limitless. The commute, though, and the canyons of buildings and the smell of the subways in August and the heat of the 4,5,6 platform, the winds that whip around the Financial Dist., the dearth of a good, cheap lunch you won't grow sick of after two months in mid-town... This is the thread of the city and is relatively finite. If you don't like it, you don't like it. No big deal.

Mostly if you're not happy, you really should think about leaving because unless you job _is_ your life you should be somewhere you like to look at all the time. Maybe expand your horizons to SF, and Austin. They are great cities. Do well, you can always come back.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:13 AM on August 29, 2007

Best answer: Some people just can't live in NYC forever. I know, I'm one of them. I was lucky to know it before I moved there. If you're one of them - and it's sure sounding that way; the things you mention under the headings of "It's not that I dislike New York" contain many of the things that I really, really dislike about New York - it's got nothing to do with your career; eventually you're going to have to leave.

However, because of what NYC is, there are career options there that are hard to find elsewhere. If you really love your magazine career, I'd say stick it out and start networking, and job-hunting based on your NYC resume (if it's good enough to support a job hunt!).

When you have a solid job offer that's located in a city that sounds more appealing, that's the right time to bolt - not before.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:37 PM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

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