Fine Print

A day in the life of Oi’s managing editor

I read recently that there are over 200 million blogs on the internet. Add to that online publications, news outlets and specialty websites and it’s obvious that there is no lack of reading material available at the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger. But there is something visceral about newspapers and magazines that I hope will never be replaced by e-ink and a screen. It’s the feel of paper against skin, the smell of newsprint, the anticipation of what the next page holds. I suppose that’s why I’ve devoted the last eight years to the magazine industry. It’s the allure of creating a beautiful publication completely and utterly from scratch. It’s searching out the untold stories or finding a new spin on a story that’s been told hundreds of times before. It’s working with some of the most creative people I’ve ever come across who are just as passionate about taking that perfect photo, writing that perfect line, creating the perfect layout. Sure, I routinely wake up in cold sweats with the fear that we won’t be able to fill pages with quality content, meet a print deadline or snag a coveted interview, but it’s all part of the job.

9am It’s Monday which means it’s the first of three weekly acupuncture sessions. I board the #35 bus headed to the nunnery on Ton Duc Thang. The founding sister who everyone affectionately calls “Grandma” greets me by name as she has for the last few years, since I’ve been coming for treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, an occupational hazard. While a nun inserts needles into my elbows, wrists and the tips of my fingers, I make a mental to-do list for the day which includes an editorial meeting, lunch with a client and a media event. The tingling, pulsating sensation throughout my hands and arms is strangely soothing.

10am I spend the next hour or so working through my inbox which can be my absolute favorite or most dreaded part of the day. The first email, though, gets the day off to a positive start. It’s from the husband of someone we interviewed, writing to say he’s happy with the second portrait shot we took of his wife. (This, too, is an occupational hazard, managing people’s self-perceptions, especially when it comes to having a photo published in print. “Do I really look like that?” and “Can you photoshop out [fill in the blank here]?” have been common questions.)

Next is an email from a reader with a suggestion for a Saigon Mythbusters question and another from an expat who’s just opened up a gourmet food stand. Quirky! I make a note to check it out. The next email warms my heart. It’s from an artist who was touched by our story on Mimi, the transgender funeral performer. She’s asking for Oi to arrange an introduction for a collaboration on a project dealing with censorship, oppression and transgender issues. I share the email with the team, as these really mean a lot to us, knowing that the stories we’re producing are having a real impact on our readers. Then come two story pitches. The first is about a walk along the Saigon River, but the tone is slightly off. It’s written for readers who don’t know the city at all, and that’s not our core readership. I suggest a rewrite; we’ll see what happens. The second is from a freelance writer and it’s a travel article about a destination we haven’t covered. I quickly write back to see if the writer has high quality photos to go with the article. At Oi, we love working with writers, experienced or not, who have fresh ideas and unique stories to tell.

11:15am Bulletin (openings, promotions, etc.), Datebook (events) and Faces & Places are regular features of the magazine, to keep our readers up-to-date with the latest developments around the city, whether they be a hot new restaurant opening or a performance down at the Opera House. With something happening every night of the week here, I have to be selective, deciding which will interest our readers while also showcasing a unique concept or event. 2013 was a good year for Faces & Places because it was Vietnam’s 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties with a host of countries, each with their own unique cultural way of celebrating it, leading to some great photo ops. Today, Minh emails me with news of their Barcamp event and I pencil it in. While we scour the web for events, it’s also appreciated when readers and event managers email us with their info.

12pm Because Oi isn’t sold, advertisers are our lifeblood. Today, I meet with a prospective client who wants to know how Oi fits with their brand. Over a turkey wrap and a coffee, we discuss the different ways we can support their brand, deciding on a celebrity interview held at their venue as well as social media support for their upcoming promotions.

2pm In the shadow of Bitexco, our editorial team is meeting for our monthly planning meeting. We take turns pitching, rejecting and fleshing out ideas. James, the Deputy Editor, has been snagging discounts on various Vietnamese social buying sites and thinks a behind-thescenes look will be interesting. Someone else chimes in with a new book they heard about, detailing the stories behind everyday jobs here in Vietnam. It has strong human interest appeal. There’s also a celebrity chef in town which is always a popular assignment because it inevitably entails a gourmet meal. As the ideas flow, I mentally run each storyline by the censor. It wasn’t too long ago that our Chinatown issue had to be renamed, unfortunate collateral damage due to a controversial Vietnamese movie that ended up being banned around that same time. While we nail down the content for our next issue, I make photography notes. Which articles will need to be illustrated conceptually? Which shoots will require extra planning? We’re all excited about our photo essay idea for ballet dancers in everyday situations, but it’s going to be labor-intensive. We’ll have to think about location, lighting and timing. We’ll hash that out at our photography meeting later in the week.

4:15pm The last part of the day is spent tracking down potential leads, figuring out deadlines for writers, photographers and account managers and sending out article briefs. A phone call about a last minute change of venue for a concert we’re covering has me scrambling to see if one of the photographers can make the new location. She can. Mini-crisis averted.

6pm Everyone is packing up for the day and I still have to get home to change into something a bit dressier for tonight’s event, the fourth anniversary of the Hard Rock Cafe. Networking is so important in this industry, but I’m also hoping to enjoy a few mojitos and some sliders with my fiance. It’s a dirty job, but it’s my job and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Image by Adam Robert Young

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