“I Love Magazines…” BROWNBOOK Magazine’s Interview with Mr. Magazine™January 13, 2015
The Dubai-based BROWNBOOK magazine describes itself as “An Urban Guide To The Middle East.” John Burns, a writer at the magazine, interviewed me for the Jan./Feb. issue. The interview appeared in the “Bookend” department, which is the last page of the magazine. What follows is a reprint (with permission) of the interview as it appeared in the magazine.
Director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, Dr Samir Husni – aka Mr Magazine – has racked up a collection of over 30,000 first editions
I fell in love with magazines when the first issue of Superman came out in Arabic. DR Samir Husni
What sparked your love for magazine culture?
I fell in love with magazines when I was nine years old, when the first issue of Superman came out in Arabic. I went with two friends to buy it in Tripoli, Lebanon. They fell in love with the blue cape and I fell in love with the idea of holding a story in my hands and being able to read it from beginning to end at my own pace. I think the ink somehow transfused into my body and I became infected.
How did you get the ‘Mr Magazine’ trademark?
In 1986, I had a student from a small town here in Mississippi who couldn’t pronounce my name. Neither Samir, nor Husni. He started calling me Mr Magazine, and at the end of the semester he put it on a nameplate for my desk. Then everybody started calling me Mr Magazine. I thought, ‘If everybody is going to call me that, I might as well trademark it!’
What do students learn from your course?
I teach magazine publishing, which is a course in which each student develops an idea for a new magazine. In the first semester, we go through the entire process of developing business plans, including competition analysis, advertising and circulation. In the second semester they create a prototype issue of how they want the magazine to be.
What are the larger aims of the Magazine Innovation Center?
The Center has one specific goal – amplifying the future of print in a digital age. I’m not one of those people for whom it’s either-or. It’s print plus digital, not print or digital.
Do you read all of the magazines that you collect?
There’s nothing that I read cover to cover, but there are a lot of magazines, that I have to see, either out of habit or addiction. New York Magazine is one of them. Bloomberg Businessweek. I read The Week religiously. The usual suspects.
Have you uncovered any unusual publications recently?
What makes my reading very interesting is, like, here I’m flipping through the pages of Crochetscene and then all of a sudden I’m reading Recoil, a magazine about gun culture.
Do you collect anything else?
I have almost 2,000 neckties. I tell the students, ‘If you ever see me wearing the same necktie in the entire school year then you pass. I’ll give you an A.’ But sometimes I trick them – I wear two ties that are similar but different.
What’s the one piece of advice you give to all of your students?
I encourage them to ‘think big’. I don’t believe in this garbage that the sky’s the limit, or that if you aim at the moon and miss then you’ll land on one of the stars. I tell them, ‘If you aim for the moon and you miss, then you’re crashing.’
What do you love most about your job?
What I love the most is that I’m doing exactly what I did when I was nine years old – the only difference is now people pay me for my hobby. The only time I work is on the weekend when my wife asks me to mow the grass or do this or do that. Otherwise, I say, ‘Thank God for Mondays. I’m going to do my hobby.’