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Rosa Magazine: In The Spirit Of The Phenomenal Rosa Parks, A Magazine That’s Intention Is To Be A Catalyst For Change As It Honors Women In Power & Politics, Both Past And Present – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sandra Long, Publisher/Editor In Chief, Rosa Magazine…

June 28, 2018

“I am partial to print magazines, I still think there is a market for them. And when we had women pick it up, the look and feel of Rosa resonated with people and to be able to turn that page was important. Women still buy magazines, whether it’s fashion or, as we hope, political, they’re still buying magazines. I was firm that it had to be print. We will transition to do a little bit online, just to be able to feed that marketplace. But we’ll do print as long as they are supporting it.”…Sandra Long


A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

Rosa Magazine is a new title that honors women in power and politics, past, present and future ones. Its goal is to always be non-partisan and simply tell the stories of these important women of history and of those that will someday have a page in our world’s chronicles of time. It’s an arduous goal, but one that Publisher and Editor in Chief, Sandra Long is determined to reach.

Sandra is a woman who is very much Rosa material herself, having once held the position of Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, second in command of Maryland’s chief agency on commerce and industry. Her historical appointment marked the first for a woman or African American to this post in America. Quite an achievement and one that certainly qualifies her for the magazine’s tagline: Women in Power & Politics.

I spoke with Sandra recently and we talked about this fantastic new magazine that encourages women to make a stand for change in whatever areas of interest they may have. And as Sandra writes in her publisher’s letter in the premier issue: sometimes to change the system and the outcome of issues that we care about, we must hold political office.

And as for why she chose print as the perfect format for Rosa, according to Sandra, it’s about the look and feel of Rosa and how that resonates with readers right along with the content. And her firm belief that print is still a viable and prosperous technology for today’s world.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a delightful woman who knows her way around the world of politics and is quickly learning the many facets that make up the magazine universe, Sandra Long, publisher and editor in chief, Rosa magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Rosa magazine: Rosa magazine is actually my second magazine, but I started it because I came out of, when I was Deputy Secretary of Commerce, I came out of that political environment and I’ve always been politically active and my family has too. One of my distant cousins served in the United States Congress, Eddie Bernice Johnson from Dallas, and my folks are from Dallas. We just believe in telling good stories, and for Rosa it’s about telling good stories of what women have done politically and how we have impacted everything from the starting of the country to our political system today. I wanted to highlight some of the things that we’ve done in our past and also what we’re doing currently as we look to run for office and impact change.

On naming the magazine Rosa: Naming it Rosa was just in the spirit of Rosa Parks, in her image, that honesty and integrity, making a stand for something. And even though it’s not named after her directly, it is in that spirit. We wanted it to be able to tell people that Rosa Parks stood for something against all things. She made a stand. And today when we look at our political environment, it’s the things that we can do; we can make a stand. And it doesn’t have to be rowdy and unruly, but it can be where someone is just making a point.

On whether she is not only launching a magazine, but a movement as well: Our intent is to be able to start a movement. We want it to be able to grow naturally and organically; we think the time politically is right now when you look around and see what’s happening. There are more women who are running for office, and so this is probably the best time to launch a magazine around women in politics. I think it can be the beginning of a movement that helps spur more women into political office, locally and nationally. But it’s something that I’m not going to push out into the world, but just let it evolve naturally. And I think it will. I think women will gravitate toward having a magazine that is politically for them.

On why she decided on a print magazine: My family has been in print for almost 100 years. My great-grandfather did print and these were the old black newspapers, and my family also owns one of the oldest black newspapers in Dallas today. And so, I’ve always been partial to print. And contrary to popular belief, I do not think print is dead. I think the Internet is so large and there’s so much to search for, it’s still nice to be able to pick up a magazine and read.

On which career was easier, being the Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, being in politics, or being a journalist/publisher/editor: That’s a great question. Really, it’s an easy question, because I’m going to tell you, I really think being deputy secretary was easier than being a journalist and a publisher. It’s difficult, because you have to try to understand your marketplace and who you’re writing for, you have to get the story right. We have to engage writers of all backgrounds, there is a lot to it, and that’s just the editorial side. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, you already know all of this. There are so many moving parts to it.

On whether she can really keep Rosa magazine non-partisan: The mission of Rosa is to definitely be non-partisan, to write about both sides of an issue and leave the readers to make their own decisions. We’re not trying to lean them either way, which honestly is the difficult part. And I’ll give you a great example. In the inauguration issue we had a story about political rhetoric and in that we just happened to use President Trump and the gentleman who started this big thing on political rhetoric, we used those two photos. And I’ll tell you, we did get some emails about using those, but had they read the story instead of just thinking that we were making a play after President Trump, they would have found that we were not. But he is a master at political language; he is a master at that and you have to give him that. So, I think it’s going to be hard, a very difficult task.

On what she hopes to say about Rosa magazine after the next 12 months: That’s a great question. I sit and think about what impact Rosa can make over the next 12 months, because we’ll be knee-deep in looking at that next presidential election; we’ll be approaching 2020. So, the impact that we want to be able to have, that I think Rosa will have, is to be able to bring women together, to say here is a magazine that has stories with women in political office, whether they’re running or whether they’re in their communities, what are they doing politically, and that they will see Rosa as a connector across the country. If we have done that and done that well, then we’ve accomplished what the mission of Rosa is meant to be.

On the largest stumbling block she thinks she’ll have to face: Here is the largest stumbling block, because sustainability in any effort, any venture, is key. Once you feel like you’re hitting your niche, then how are you going to sustain that? For us, one of the toughest challenges is that sustainability looks like advertising, because there is only so much self-funding that I can do. And we’re going to need to get advertisers; we’re going to have to take on people who are experts in the industry to be able to help us get the right advertisers.

On the most pleasant moment so far: The most pleasant moment was actually getting the magazine in my hand and being able to turn that page when it came from the printer, and just to look and ask was this the intent when we put this into print? Our designer, Matt Williams, is just brilliant, and when we turned that page, I have to tell you, I felt like it was a great nod to the women of our past and to the ones that are now, I think it was a job well done. That was an exciting moment.

On why she chose to publish in Nashville: Nashville, for me, is home and I know a lot of people here. And it’s a growing city. Nashville in its heyday was a publishing city and we had Printer’s Alley. We did a lot of the major magazines and we still do a lot of work on major magazines in print. I know some people might say that we need to be in New York or in Washington, but we can get there from Nashville, Tenn. I think it’s just a different mindset in Nashville. And it’s also, for lack of a better word, it’s always been my spiritual center. And so when I come to Nashville, I get clarity on what it is I feel like I’m supposed to be doing to impact the world personally.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: I’m doing one of two things, I’m either on Texture looking at magazine design, because that’s one of the things that I just love and it relaxes me. I just want to look and see what other designers are doing, it keeps us creative. And I’m probably watching some girly show – Real Housewives or something, if I’m not reading. But I have to tell you, to relax sometimes I’m watching some kind of reality TV show. I’ll indulge for at least an hour, so you’ll find me doing those things for sure.

On how she would like to be remembered: Probably service to mankind. I want to be known for service, that’s all I want to be known for. That I just wanted to serve people in the particular way that God gave me with my skillset, because there are some things that I’m not good at and most people who know me will tell you. (Laughs) Oh no, Ms. Long, she’s not good at that. (Laughs again) Or she’s successfully good at this; I am good at concepts and implementing. But it is always to be of service. So, if there’s anything I want people to remember about me or to be etched in stone or in the brains of people, that’s what I’d like to be remembered for.

On what keeps her up at night: There isn’t a lot that keeps me up at night, because from the moment that my feet hit the ground in the morning, I know what I’m supposed to be doing and I’m running hard every, single day, so by the time I get to sleep, I am a sound sleeper. There’s not anything that I’m really concerned about other than just making sure that I am doing all that I can do to give the magazine the right voice and the right life that it deserves. Nothing lasts forever, there’s a time and a season for everything. I just happen to think that this is Rosa’s season. That this is the time for a magazine of this caliber and with this target and mission.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sandra Long, publisher/editor in chief, Rosa magazine.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on the launch of Rosa magazine. You’re a woman of many accomplishments and now you’re diving into the world of magazines and journalism. Tell me about Rosa.

Sandra Long: Rosa magazine is actually my second magazine, but I started it because I came out of, when I was Deputy Secretary of Commerce, I came out of that political environment and I’ve always been politically active and my family has too. One of my distant cousins served in the United States Congress, Eddie Bernice Johnson from Dallas, and my folks are from Dallas. We just believe in telling good stories, and for Rosa it’s about telling good stories of what women have done politically and how we have impacted everything from the starting of the country to our political system today. I wanted to highlight some of the things that we’ve done in our past and also what we’re doing currently as we look to run for office and impact change.

Samir Husni: Can you reconstruct that a-ha moment when you decided to call the magazine Rosa? How did the name come into being?

Sandra Long: That’s a great question. Even though we just launched this past March, I probably had the idea over two years ago and probably longer than that, but I just wasn’t in a position to understand what Rosa really was, you know you have to decide and define what is it. What kind of stories are you going to tell? So, even in my soul-searching about designing the magazine and what the format was going to be, it took a while. So, we’ve had the idea for a while.

Naming it Rosa was just in the spirit of Rosa Parks, in her image, that honesty and integrity, making a stand for something. And even though it’s not named after her directly, it is in that spirit. We wanted it to be able to tell people that Rosa Parks stood for something against all things. She made a stand. And today when we look at our political environment, it’s the things that we can do; we can make a stand. And it doesn’t have to be rowdy and unruly, but it can be where someone is just making a point.

So, I decided to name the magazine Rosa because I think it has substance, that name in and of itself, what it means has substance. I just wanted women to have a magazine that represented them, and it’s non-partisan. I wanted this to be a voice for women, for them to be able to express themselves politically and with issues that relate to that. So, that’s how I laid the foundation.

Samir Husni: In the magazine, your introduction has so many illustrations, such as the T-shirt “I am Rosa, I am Rosa.” In addition to launching the magazine, are you in the process of starting a movement, like the French with “I am Charlie?”

Sandra Long: Our intent is to be able to start a movement. We want it to be able to grow naturally and organically; we think the time politically is right now when you look around and see what’s happening. There are more women who are running for office, and so this is probably the best time to launch a magazine around women in politics. I think it can be the beginning of a movement that helps spur more women into political office, locally and nationally. But it’s something that I’m not going to push out into the world, but just let it evolve naturally. And I think it will. I think women will gravitate toward having a magazine that is politically for them.

We’ve done tests for all of these different age groups, the younger – the millennials, and I will tell you that it’s really amazing to see the reception from each one of those age groups, even the millennials. And we’re proud of that. So, to answer your question, we sure hope it starts a movement, but we’re going to just naturally let it happen.

And I think social media, as we all know, gives us that great presence. You can build a movement online, and I think we’ll do a lot of that. Now, we’ll need help to be able to do it, but we’ll definitely lay that foundation for that.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to publish a print magazine?

Sandra Long: There are two reasons. Number one, my family has been in print for almost 100 years. My great-grandfather did print and these were the old black newspapers, and my family also owns one of the oldest black newspapers in Dallas today. And so, I’ve always been partial to print. And contrary to popular belief, I do not think print is dead. I think the Internet is so large and there’s so much to search for, it’s still nice to be able to pick up a magazine and read.

And because I am partial to print magazines, I still think there is a market for them. And when we had women pick it up, the look and feel of Rosa resonated with people and to be able to turn that page was important. Women still buy magazines, whether it’s fashion or, as we hope, political, they’re still buying magazines. I was firm that it had to be print. We will transition to do a little bit online, just to be able to feed that marketplace. But we’ll do print as long as they are supporting it.

Samir Husni: Which career was easier, being the Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, being in politics, or being a journalist/publisher/editor?

Sandra Long: (Laughs) That’s a great question. Really, it’s an easy question, because I’m going to tell you, I really think being deputy secretary was easier than being a journalist and a publisher. It’s difficult, because you have to try to understand your marketplace and who you’re writing for, you have to get the story right. We have to engage writers of all backgrounds, there is a lot to it, and that’s just the editorial side. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, you already know all of this. There are so many moving parts to it.

And even though my family has been in the business, I did not print those things, I was in and around it, but to do it yourself and to pull your own team together and to try and get the voice right is hard. The voice of Rosa magazine has to be right, and it’s really difficult. But deputy secretary is probably a close second, it was hard. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: You’re trying to make Rosa apolitical in the divided sea that exists in our country. Is it possible to create something today that’s apolitical or isn’t on the right or on the left?

Sandra Long: The mission of Rosa is to definitely be non-partisan, to write about both sides of an issue and leave the readers to make their own decisions. We’re not trying to lean them either way, which honestly is the difficult part. And I’ll give you a great example. In the inauguration issue we had a story about political rhetoric and in that we just happened to use President Trump and the gentleman who started this big thing on political rhetoric, we used those two photos. And I’ll tell you, we did get some emails about using those, but had they read the story instead of just thinking that we were making a play after President Trump, they would have found that we were not. But he is a master at political language; he is a master at that and you have to give him that. So, I think it’s going to be hard, a very difficult task.

When we have our writer’s meetings, we are looking at every story, all of the language. What does this say to our readers? And are we really writing down the middle as we tell these stories of the past, present and future? It’s tremendously difficult, I have to tell you. I’m hoping that we hit the mark, but I also think the readers will keep us honest in that. Some of the women who were in office would say a certain story wasn’t non-political, that it had a slant to it, so we have to try and avoid that, it’s not what we want. We want to bring the nation of women, and male readers too, we have readers that are men; we want to bring the nation together. Or at least do our part.

Samir Husni: You’re referring to the article “Speaking in Code,” correct?

Sandra Long: Yes.

Samir Husni: It’s a great illustration, among other things, for the opening spread. So, tell me, if you and I are speaking a year from now and I ask you to tell me about Rosa, what would you hope to say?

Sandra Long: That’s a great question. I sit and think about what impact Rosa can make over the next 12 months, because we’ll be knee-deep in looking at that next presidential election; we’ll be approaching 2020. So, the impact that we want to be able to have, that I think Rosa will have, is to be able to bring women together, to say here is a magazine that has stories with women in political office, whether they’re running or whether they’re in their communities, what are they doing politically, and that they will see Rosa as a connector across the country. If we have done that and done that well, then we’ve accomplished what the mission of Rosa is meant to be.

One of my favorite stories in this issue is about a young lady named Blair, who is out of South Carolina and she’s young, but she ran for state office and she won. And so it’s important to have people look at that. Other young women who might have an interest in politics, to see that you can do it. Not everyone is going to want to run and win, but to just be in the ring is the idea. At least I threw my little Chanel hat into the ring. So, that’s what we’re hoping Rosa will accomplish. A year from now, I’m telling you if we can do that, then we will have done something that’s great.

Samir Husni: As we look ahead, as you look at Rosa and at the entire spectrum of women in power in politics, what do you feel will be the largest stumbling block you’ll have to face and how will you overcome it?

Sandra Long: Here is the largest stumbling block, because sustainability in any effort, any venture, is key. Once you feel like you’re hitting your niche, then how are you going to sustain that? For us, one of the toughest challenges is that sustainability looks like advertising, because there is only so much self-funding that I can do. And we’re going to need to get advertisers; we’re going to have to take on people who are experts in the industry to be able to help us get the right advertisers.

I think there’s a tremendous base of people who want more say, who want to be a part of Rosa magazine or are geared toward our audience. So, that’s probably my biggest challenge, if I’m being honest. I know that they will come. I did it without even thinking. Initially, it was a passion project coming out of the gate. It wasn’t where I was thinking we had to make sure we have advertisers, so I think we have to work for them now.

But here’s the thing, we have a product that they can hold in their hands and look at. It’s already on Barnes & Noble’s stands nationwide, but we’re going to need some help when it comes to finding people that believe in advertising in the magazine.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment so far?

Sandra Long: The most pleasant moment was actually getting the magazine in my hand and being able to turn that page when it came from the printer, and just to look and ask was this the intent when we put this into print? Our designer, Matt Williams, is just brilliant, and when we turned that page, I have to tell you, I felt like it was a great nod to the women of our past and to the ones that are now, I think it was a job well done. That was an exciting moment.

But for me, I don’t relish too long, I will just say okay now, what’s next? (Laughs) At least, that’s what the staff says, they’ll say let’s just enjoy for a moment. But that was probably the most enjoyable moment for me. I’m just excited for the next issue, there are so many stories to be told.

Samir Husni: Why did you choose to publish in Nashville?

Sandra Long: Nashville, for me, is home and I know a lot of people here. And it’s a growing city. Nashville in its heyday was a publishing city and we had Printer’s Alley. We did a lot of the major magazines and we still do a lot of work on major magazines in print. I know some people might say that we need to be in New York or in Washington, but we can get there from Nashville, Tenn. I think it’s just a different mindset in Nashville. And it’s also, for lack of a better word, it’s always been my spiritual center. And so when I come to Nashville, I get clarity on what it is I feel like I’m supposed to be doing to impact the world personally.

We may open another office, and I know that we will open an office in D.C. that will be an editorial office, probably sooner rather than later, but for now the main office is in Nashville and I anticipate we’ll be here for the next year or two.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Sandra Long: I’m doing one of two things, I’m either on Texture looking at magazine design, because that’s one of the things that I just love and it relaxes me. I just want to look and see what other designers are doing, it keeps us creative. And I’m probably watching some girly show – Real Housewives or something, if I’m not reading. But I have to tell you, to relax sometimes I’m watching some kind of reality TV show. I’ll indulge for at least an hour, so you’ll find me doing those things for sure.

Samir Husni: How do you want people to remember you? If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Sandra Long: Probably service to mankind. I want to be known for service, that’s all I want to be known for. That I just wanted to serve people in the particular way that God gave me with my skillset, because there are some things that I’m not good at and most people who know me will tell you. (Laughs) Oh no, Ms. Long, she’s not good at that. (Laughs again) Or she’s successfully good at this; I am good at concepts and implementing. But it is always to be of service. So, if there’s anything I want people to remember about me or to be etched in stone or in the brains of people, that’s what I’d like to be remembered for.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Sandra Long: There isn’t a lot that keeps me up at night, because from the moment that my feet hit the ground in the morning, I know what I’m supposed to be doing and I’m running hard every, single day, so by the time I get to sleep, I am a sound sleeper. There’s not anything that I’m really concerned about other than just making sure that I am doing all that I can do to give the magazine the right voice and the right life that it deserves. Nothing lasts forever, there’s a time and a season for everything. I just happen to think that this is Rosa’s season. That this is the time for a magazine of this caliber and with this target and mission.

So, anything that weighs on my mind a little bit is about whether I’m doing everything that I need to do to move it along, but not where it is so forced and so pushed, but definitely where people will embrace it. And hopefully they will do that.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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