What Exactly Is Next at ASME?


More editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour reminisces about editors throwing boxes of Kleenex at junior staffers at the ASME Next kickoff event

At last night’s kickoff event of ASME Next, the American Society of Magazine Editors’ attempt to attract new, younger members, organization president David Willey (EIC, Runner’s World), and editors-in-chief Leslie Jane Seymour (More), Emil Wilbekin (Giant), and Nancy Soriano (Country Living) gave a pep talk that made the event a toss-up between a group therapy session and a panel discussion.

“Magazines to me are about problem-solving,” said Wilbekin, referencing the challenges of an increasingly digital world. ASME has a little problem-solving to do, too, since they know a Facebook page isn’t enough to entice a generation of media newbies. The idea is there: providing an informal forum for young professionals who are new to magazines, doling out career advice and cultivating a network. Now, as they told us last night, it’s time to work on the delivery…

Check out ASME Next co-chairs’ plans and photos after the jump…

“We need to start upping our game,” said Jessica Dodell-Feder, co-chair of the committee, during a wine and cheese reception after the panel discussion. The Country Living associate editor said she was “a little disappointed” that the event didn’t “feel more exciting and younger.” The event took place in the ASME office building — kind of like having a meeting in your parents’ basement — but the committee plans to explore new venues as the group grows.

To be fair, the ASME offshoot was just a gleam in the organization’s eye until about a month ago, when a dozen committee members (some of whom were unsure of their exact titles) were dispatched to make it happen. So far they have more than 60 members (only four of last night’s attendees were guys — some things in media never change). “ASME’s not abundantly clear to people who are starting out,” said Dodell-Feder. “We want to get people interested and give young people in the industry a voice.” Her co-chair, Dara Pettinelli, stressed the value of an ASME “support system” and “cache” of media pros, while Web co-chair Julie Miller discussed plans for new online content and more social networking as the group tries its hand at appealing to next-gen journos.

The panelists addressed the generation gap with gusto: Seymour recalled that she, “grew up in the days when [editors] would throw Kleenex boxes at you,” and advised everyone to focus on developing Web skills.

As with any first encounter, last night’s event was tinged with awkward silences, nervous laughter and overt politeness. But the overall sentiment was a positive one — that ASME Next is moving in the right direction and will continue to evolve.

“The hope and goal is that everyone in the room will know each other. Next time, they won’t be meeting; they’ll be friends,” said Seth Porges, a committee member and associate editor at Popular Mechanics.

After all, who wouldn’t love to be a part of a community devoted to sharing resources and mingling in the media world?

ASME Next co-chairs Dara Pettinelli and Jessica Dodell-Feder

–Blake Gernstetter