Editor’s note: It’s about the stories
There’s power in good storytelling, and it’s a responsibility and an honor to get to do it.
I had no idea who our mayor was.
Yes, I knew generally of Satya Rhodes-Conway — elected in 2019 and a strong supporter of bus rapid transit, affordable housing and combating climate change. I’ve watched her speak. I’ve even met her in person when she was a guest at one of Neil Heinen’s editorial board meetings pre-COVID-19.
But after reading the profile on her written by Doug Moe, I realized just how little I actually knew.
Rhodes-Conway was generous with her trust, offering personal details of her upbringing and the joys and tragedies that have shaped her. She shared family photos and posed for a new portrait you’ll see on page 67.
I came away from the piece with a fuller image of who our mayor really is, and was instantly excited to know we were opening up that same window to readers.
There’s power in good storytelling, and it’s a responsibility and an honor to get to do it. I was reminded of this often a few weeks ago while attending sessions at the virtual City Regional Magazine Association annual conference. In one session we heard from Dan Barry, a longtime reporter and columnist for The New York Times. “When I first started, I couldn’t believe the privilege of being a newspaper reporter,” Barry said. “I think sometimes we take that for granted, the idea that we enter other peoples’ lives and we wind up knowing a hell of a lot about them, and we leave and they know nothing about us.”
I’ve come away from many interviews with the same feeling. It’s downright frightening to know you have the pieces of someone’s story, trapped inside a recorder or scribbled into a notebook, and it’s your job to turn that into an accurate depiction — and one people want to read.
Barry confessed later in the session: “I also never, ever get over the fear of a blank screen, and how do you fill it with words that are worth it?”
Imposter syndrome as a writer and editor hides behind every comma and em dash for me. It’s hard to avoid, and I don’t think it will ever go away. But then I read stories like Moe’s profile on the mayor, or our cover story by Stacy Harbaugh giving visibility to a few of Madison’s Faces of Pride, and I am reassured that the work we do is important. Then, while wrapping up production on both, we learned that we won general excellence at the 36th Annual National City and Regional Magazine Awards, and I was reassured that we are doing a pretty good job of it, too.
“People want to be told stories if they’re well told,” Barry said. “Stories help us navigate and understand the human condition. People want to pause, be told a story and to find things that they can identify with, or broadens their worldview or provides some kind of understanding.”
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