Archive for the ‘Across the Pond’ Category

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Ink’s Cofounder & Co-CEO, Simon Leslie To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Think Sometimes People Forget How Important This Media [Print] Is And How Much It Means To People On Their Journeys,” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

October 21, 2019

“My products are in a place where we haven’t got as much digital interference as some of the other people have. And readers don’t have to get out there and buy it, it’s right there in front of them. They have to spend $300 or $400 on an airline ticket, but the magazine is there and it gives them stuff they didn’t know they needed to know, and I think that’s why they’re still engaged with it and still excited by it, still inspired by it. And because of that, we find brands that want to be associated with that. The biggest challenge that the other brands are having is they have stopped investing in their product, they have stopped believing in their product, they have stopped loving their product. They have listened to what the naysayers have told them, as opposed to believing in why they existed in the first place.”… Simon Leslie

Motivational speaker, motivational writer and author, Simon Leslie, is a man who defies defeat, yet accepts it when it comes and learns from it. He is a believer in the print product, but knows the advantages of digital and doesn’t write off either. He is also seeing growth and optimism in the future of his company, Ink.

Simon heads up Ink’s global commercial operations, overseeing the media sales teams in six of its offices around the world. A natural-born seller, he began his career in door-to-door insurance sales at the age of 17. Today, Simon is responsible for Ink’s global sales and business strategy. He is also instrumental in defining Ink’s unique sales culture, of which he believes in motivating his team to believe in themselves and the products they’re selling wholeheartedly, along with helping the brands they represent to reach and help more people.

In fact, the help factor is so strong in Simon that he has written a new book, “There Is No F In Sales,” that offers many tips and advice, and his unique and successful approach to selling, to people who are just starting out or those who are in the thick of it today.

I spoke with Simon recently about the new book and about the ever-growing success of Ink, the inflight travel brand that has more than 30 print publications for its travel partners. The book is a culmination of the knowledge he’s learned over the last 33 years in sales. And if Ink’s success story is any indication of his expertise, salespeople from around the globe may want to pick up a copy as soon as possible. By the way, all the proceeds from the sales of the book goes to charity, Simon informed me.

But until then, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Simon Leslie, cofounder and co-CEO, Ink.

But first the sound-bites:

On why he wrote the book: I wrote the book because I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve learned and accumulated over the last 33 years of being in sales. I wanted to write the book because I wanted to generate money for charity, all the profits from the book are going to charity. And I wanted to help people, who I think, are going through some of the same struggles as I’ve been through, to maybe not make the same mistakes that  I’ve made along the journey. If they’re starting out, they can learn something from it; if they’re halfway through their career, they can learn how to accelerate, and if they’re getting to the end of their career and thinking about what to do next, there are bits of advice in it for that as well. It’s giving a full list of ideas of how to deal with certain situations, and hopefully people won’t make as many mistakes as I did.

On what he would say about the book if he were writing a review: I would say it’s not a difficult read; it’s written in short chapters with tips at the end of each chapter. It’s funny, the author is incredibly funny, and there is some great advice for people going through different phases. And it’s delivered in a conversational way. A lot of books give you lots of ideas, but those ideas may have never been done at all. These are real life situations that I have encountered and then I tell you how I dealt with them.

On why he thinks his company Ink is flourishing while many others are not: The answer is going to be timely. Recently somebody ran a sub-2 hour marathon for the first time and I love that. I love the fact that they went through every little detail to make sure they performed and everybody did what they needed to do, and that got them the result they wanted. And I think that sums up how I operate. I look at all the details, I work out what we need to do, how we need to do it, and we work together, and that’s mostly coming from the team. I have a great team. And they believe what I believe and together we’re all rowing in the same direction. We believe in our media and we believe in our product.

On his secret sauce of why his advertising revenue-based business model still works for Ink: (Laughs) My magic formula. I can only tell you it’s a good team and a 100 percent belief in our product. We spend a lot of time training, and in personal development, working on mindsets of how do we get these people performing at the level they want to perform at. How do they deal with all the excuses and reasons why people don’t want to work with us? And how do they come up with better stories? It’s a story, life is one big story. And it’s encapsulated in the book: the ones who can tell a better story are the ones who succeed. And if you tell good stories, if people believe your stories and they believe in what you’re doing, that’s important.

On whether his business has felt more like a speedboat, such as the one in the ad he tore out when he was only 21, propelling him to do more than dream: The example of me tearing out Sunseeker ads from The Sunday Times goes along with what the ad actually read: Many dream and few achieve. That really inspired me and I was trying to explain how much that did for me in my career. It was so motivating, but that’s not necessarily what Sunseeker wanted; they wanted to sell boats. And sometimes you don’t realize the correlation between the message that you put out there and what it does for people.

On what position he places Ink when he goes out to sell for the magazines: Today we are focused on travel media, and it’s more space. I’m spending nearly every waking hour looking at how I can be better in that space. At the moment I have airports, I have people at home, I have people who, before they check in, I inspire them before they even decide where they’re going to go. I then get them on the airplane and I can talk to them about where they’re going, where they should go or might go, where they should think about going. And then I get them on the way back, and I have a different message for them. So, I am interested only in the traveler. And that traveler has a high propensity to spend money. They’re agile, opportunistic, and they don’t think twice about spending money.

On whether he differentiates between selling the traveler to the advertiser or selling the stories to the traveler: I have to make sure that I inspire the traveler. I have to keep the new content fresh and well-researched pieces of editorial to make sure they pick that magazine up and that they’re excited, which is what they continue to do. In our research we did the Harris poll about six weeks ago, and the recall and pickup was getting close to 90 percent. It was unbelievable. Then I have to make sure that the airlines love their products as much as we do, because they have to carry this around the universe and their customers have to be engaged and inspired, and have to do great feedback.

On whether he’s had to face any challenges along his journey: I’ve had more challenges in 25 years than anyone should have. When we started in 1994 it was a recession, then we had the dotcom boom and bust, then we had 9/11, we had 7/7, we had the Great Recession; we had countries going bust. Then we had our own growing pains; when you’re private equity-backed, there’s never-ending growth, so you have to keep growing and making decisions. And sometimes you make wrong decisions and you live with the consequences of those as well. And there will be another 20 challenges in the next 20 years. The thing that I really do want to get across is that I’m super-excited. Probably more excited than I’ve ever been.

 On mentioning in his book that he doesn’t admit defeat unless he’s tried every single, possible path: Well, sometimes you have to lose. I question if I prefer losing to winning, because I’ve learned more from losing than I have winning. You do have to keep going, it’s a hurdle race and sometimes you’ll fall over and sometimes you’ll jump beautifully. Or you’ll get to the hurdle and you’ll refuse. And that’s the art, you have to keep racing and the opportunities will present themselves.

On Ink’s expectations for 2020: We’ve just went into Ethiopian, so we’re getting back into Africa. I’m really excited about that. With this business, one of the first airlines we had was in Africa, so it’s going back to where we started, which is quite exciting. Ethiopian Airlines is the largest airline on Africa and we’re launching a new magazine, which will come out this month. And that will get bigger and bigger next year.

On whether this year will be a financially bountiful year: I think we’ve had records in about a dozen titles and that’s not records for this year, that’s the best ever. I have to say, we’re not seeing a downturn, if anything we’re seeing optimism. Our U.S. operation is up 24 percent from last year. The problem with that is, next year we’ll expect that again, but we keep doing it, we keep finding growth. And what’s exciting about the growth is that we’re helping companies at the same time reach new customers that they weren’t reaching.

On what motivates him to get out of bed: I’m getting more and more excited by watching the team grow, I’ve seen them develop. The pace that we are seeing some of the youngsters come through at is just incredible. They’re 19, 20, 25, 30 years old and they’re just doing things that even they didn’t believe were possible for them to achieve. And we’re just excited by that. Every time we have success, we also have some that don’t succeed, but we’re doing more and more to improve our ratio of making them absolutely great salespeople, with great customers.

On if he ever believed he would become a motivational speaker, writer and author from his days of clipping ads from the Sunday Times years ago: Some days, as you may have seen in the book, I have to pinch myself to actually believe what I’m allowed to do, what I’m making happen, and it’s incredibly rewarding.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: I only see positive; I don’t worry about what people say about me, everyone is entitled to their opinion. (Laughs) When I started out, people said I’d be bankrupt, and I use those statements from my younger years to motivate me, I was going to prove them wrong. In the last 10 years, how many times has someone told us that print was going to die, that there is no place for print and they’re wrong. And they’ll continue to be wrong.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: You’ll probably listen to a podcast with me. You’ll find me with my earphones in and working on my brain, working on my knowledge, working at how I can learn to get better, and relaxing, I do meditation. It’s really important to me to give my family time as well, so I’m making sure that I’m sharing my knowledge with them and that we’re all growing together. I’m the father of four boys and I’m incredibly proud of the way they’re all developing. And that’s good, because for a long time I was an absent father, but I’m very proud of them.

On what keeps him up at night: Normally indigestion. (Laughs) No, it’s very rare that I get up at night, I sleep really well.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Simon Leslie, cofounder & co-CEO, Ink.

Samir Husni: You’ve just written a book “There Is No F In Sales,” tell me, why did you write the book?

Simon Leslie: I wrote the book because I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve learned and accumulated over the last 33 years of being in sales. I wanted to write the book because I wanted to generate money for charity, all the profits from the book are going to charity. And I wanted to help people, who I think, are going through some of the same struggles as I’ve been through, to maybe not make the same mistakes that  I’ve made along the journey. If they’re starting out, they can learn something from it; if they’re halfway through their career, they can learn how to accelerate, and if they’re getting to the end of their career and thinking about what to do next, there are bits of advice in it for that as well. It’s giving a full list of ideas of how to deal with certain situations, and hopefully people won’t make as many mistakes as I did.

Samir Husni: The book reads as though you and I are sitting and having a conversation. I can hear you talking throughout the book, telling me it’s okay to not be okay, that challenges will be faced and this is what I do with them. I am going to have successes and I am going to have failures. If you were to write a review on Amazon about the book, what would you write?

Simon Leslie: I would say it’s not a difficult read; it’s written in short chapters with tips at the end of each chapter. It’s funny, the author is incredibly funny, and there is some great advice for people going through different phases. And it’s delivered in a conversational way. A lot of books give you lots of ideas, but those ideas may have never been done at all. These are real life situations that I have encountered and then I tell you how I dealt with them.

Samir Husni: I know you have encountered many of those real life experiences on both sides of the Atlantic, if not all over the world. Once, in an email, you asked me why all of these people were closing magazines or selling them, your company, Ink, was doing very well. Why do you think Ink is thriving during a time many others are not prospering?

Simon Leslie: The answer is going to be timely. Recently somebody ran a sub-2 hour marathon for the first time and I love that. I love the fact that they went through every little detail to make sure they performed and everybody did what they needed to do, and that got them the result they wanted. And I think that sums up how I operate. I look at all the details, I work out what we need to do, how we need to do it, and we work together, and that’s mostly coming from the team. I have a great team. And they believe what I believe and together we’re all rowing in the same direction. We believe in our media and we believe in our product.

Of course, we get people telling us that they have no print agenda, telling us that magazines aren’t important, but we just don’t believe it and we don’t accept it. It’s like when there was a recession, I said to my team, we’re just not participating. Let it carry on. Some of the biggest companies are formed during recessions. Some of the brightest stars were created when times were tough. I’m actually looking forward to a recession, because that’s going to bring so many opportunities that haven’t been here. People aren’t doing anything at the moment, they’re just sitting and waiting, and you actually need a shakeup from time to time to bring opportunity and fresh ideas.

Samir Husni: You’re results are more than just fiction or a dream or a belief. Your entire business is based on advertising revenue, and yet you’re succeeding where many who have that same business model are failing. What’s your secret sauce?

Simon Leslie: (Laughs) My magic formula. I can only tell you it’s a good team and a 100 percent belief in our product. We spend a lot of time training, and in personal development, working on mindsets of how do we get these people performing at the level they want to perform at. How do they deal with all the excuses and reasons why people don’t want to work with us? And how do they come up with better stories? It’s a story, life is one big story. And it’s encapsulated in the book: the ones who can tell a better story are the ones who succeed. And if you tell good stories, if people believe your stories and they believe in what you’re doing, that’s important.

My products are in a place where we haven’t got as much digital interference as some of the other people have. And readers don’t have to get out there and buy it, it’s right there in front of them. They have to spend $300 or $400 on an airline ticket, but the magazine is there and it gives them stuff they didn’t know they needed to know, and I think that’s why they’re still engaged with it and still excited by it, still inspired by it. And because of that, we find brands that want to be associated with that.

The biggest challenge that the other brands are having is they have stopped investing in their product, they have stopped believing in their product, they have stopped loving their product. They have listened to what the naysayers have told them, as opposed to believing in why they existed in the first place.

Samir Husni: Do you think your business has been more like that speedboat ad that you were tearing out and falling in love with at age 21, rather than a more relaxing and slower sailboat that others may have admired?  

Simon Leslie: The example of me tearing out Sunseeker ads from The Sunday Times goes along with what the ad actually read: Many dream and few achieve. That really inspired me and I was trying to explain how much that did for me in my career. It was so motivating, but that’s not necessarily what Sunseeker wanted; they wanted to sell boats. And sometimes you don’t realize the correlation between the message that you put out there and what it does for people.

Samir Husni: What message, in general, does Ink have now? As we approach 2020, where would you put Ink as a company that publishes several titles, websites and video? What position do you place Ink as you go out and try to sell even more ad pages?

Simon Leslie: Today we are focused on travel media, and it’s more space. I’m spending nearly every waking hour looking at how I can be better in that space. At the moment I have airports, I have people at home, I have people who, before they check in, I inspire them before they even decide where they’re going to go. I then get them on the airplane and I can talk to them about where they’re going, where they should go or might go, where they should think about going. And then I get them on the way back, and I have a different message for them. So, I am interested only in the traveler. And that traveler has a high propensity to spend money. They’re agile, opportunistic, and they don’t think twice about spending money.

When you’re on holiday and when you’re traveling, that’s a time when that credit card gets used far more than when you’re sitting in an office or at home. So, I have this affluent consumer who’s a different face than most consumers and I’m just saying this is my customer; this is what he or she or they look like, and this is what they’re going to deliver over the next 12 months. The art for me is to get more and more granular into where they’re spending their money, how they’re spending their money, why they make certain decisions, so understanding their behavior. The portfolio that we have is really exciting right now.

Samir Husni: Do you differentiate between selling that traveler to the advertiser or selling the stories to the traveler?

Simon Leslie: I have three customers. I have to make sure that I inspire the traveler. I have to keep the new content fresh and well-researched pieces of editorial to make sure they pick that magazine up and that they’re excited, which is what they continue to do. In our research we did the Harris poll about six weeks ago, and the recall and pickup was getting close to 90 percent. It was unbelievable. Then I have to make sure that the airlines love their products as much as we do, because they have to carry this around the universe and their customers have to be engaged and inspired, and have to do great feedback.

I don’t know if you remember, but a couple of years ago I launched something called #Hemigram on social media and I talked about how people want to see their face in print. We just relaunched it, we produced a 200 page book on all these pictures that people have sent us with a copy of United magazine in the most unbelievable locations around the world. And I think sometimes people forget how important this media is and how much it means to people on their journeys. So, I have to please everybody.

Samir Husni: Have you had to face any challenges on your own journey, and if so, how did you overcome them?

Simon Leslie: I’ve had more challenges in 25 years than anyone should have. When we started in 1994 it was a recession, then we had the dotcom boom and bust, then we had 9/11, we had 7/7, we had the Great Recession; we had countries going bust. Then we had our own growing pains; when you’re private equity-backed, there’s never-ending growth, so you have to keep growing and making decisions. And sometimes you make wrong decisions and you live with the consequences of those as well. And there will be another 20 challenges in the next 20 years.

The thing that I really do want to get across is that I’m super-excited. Probably more excited than I’ve ever been. I have an opportunity to affect certain people who work for inflight, to enhance it and help them improve. And I have a chance to inspire a generation of travelers.

 Samir Husni: You mention in your book that you don’t admit defeat unless you’ve tried every single, possible path. Keep on going and going and going. Is that your motto in life, your motto in selling, or is that just nice talk?

Simon Leslie: Well, sometimes you have to lose. I often question if I prefer losing to winning, because I’ve learned more from losing than I have winning. You do have to keep going, it’s a hurdle race and sometimes you’ll fall over and sometimes you’ll jump beautifully. Or you’ll get to the hurdle and you’ll refuse. And that’s the art, you have to keep racing and the opportunities will present themselves.

It’s really funny, I watch all of these viewers on Instagram every day telling people the seven things they need to do to be successful and the 10 things that can help them become a multibillionaire. And I think to myself: I didn’t know any of those things and yet I’ve had some nice success. So, sometimes what people think will make them successful is not necessarily what actually creates the success. What creates the success is the failings, the challenges, and the things that don’t go as planned and you having to adapt.

Samir Husni: What are Ink’s expectations for the year 2020? Will there be any new magazines coming  up?

Simon Leslie: We’ve just went into Ethiopian, so we’re getting back into Africa. I’m really excited about that. With this business, one of the first airlines we had was in Africa, so it’s going back to where we started, which is quite exciting. Ethiopian Airlines is the largest airline on Africa and we’re launching a new magazine, which will come out this month. And that will get bigger and bigger next year.

We have a few more airlines on the backburner ready to come over to our stables. We are now going into airlines and doing so much more than just magazines. We do partnerships; we bring brands to vend to help them grow. We just launched a new program called “Clubhouse TV,” which is a dedicated channel for airlines to have their own TV network within the clubhouse, which is starting really well.

We’ve just acquired ReachTV, which is the fastest growing airport network and is available at 90 airports in the U.S., and we’re going to grow that across the rest of the world. So, I have things that I need to do, and I promise you that we won’t slow down. If you’re talking to me around New Years’ time, and you ask me have I achieved all those things that I set out to do, I think the answer will be a resounding yes, because I’m bringing in even more coaches, even more trainers. people who are going to help my people get better. One that I am quite proud to have added is a young lady who is an Ultraman, she participates in Ultraman races, which is 520 km over three days. And she beats the guys at it. So, she has the most incredible mindset. And if I can get her to share that mindset with the people here, dealing with the old naysayers won’t be a problem anymore.

Samir Husni: As Thanksgiving approaches, I see on your website that you have a turkey made out of dollars, will you be having a financially bountiful Thanksgiving?

Simon Leslie: I think we’ve had records in about a dozen titles and that’s not records for this year, that’s the best ever. I have to say, we’re not seeing a downturn, if anything we’re seeing optimism. Our U.S. operation is up 24 percent from last year. The problem with that is, next year we’ll expect that again, but we keep doing it, we keep finding growth. And what’s exciting about the growth is that we’re helping companies at the same time reach new customers that they weren’t reaching.

People were spending a lot of money on digital and it’s getting harder and harder to get anything set, the noise is so loud. And for you to be able to understand that with all of the different changes and all the algorithms, sometimes something as simple as having a magazine on an airplane is rendering sharper returns than where they’ve been over the last couple of years.

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click these days and motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Simon Leslie: I’m getting more and more excited by watching the team grow, I’ve seen them develop. The pace that we are seeing some of the youngsters come through at is just incredible. They’re 19, 20, 25, 30 years old and they’re just doing things that even they didn’t believe were possible for them to achieve. And we’re just excited by that. Every time we have success, we also have some that don’t succeed, but we’re doing more and more to improve our ratio of making them absolutely great salespeople, with great customers.

And it’s really important that we’re spending time making sure that they understand what the customer needs and wants, because sometimes they don’t always know what they need and want, but we give them good advice, which doesn’t mean they always take it, but we’re getting better and better at understanding what brands need to do.

Samir Husni: Since you clipped that ad in the Sunday Times those years ago, did you ever think you would not only become a salesperson, but also a motivational speaker, writer and author?

Simon Leslie: Some days, as you may have seen in the book, I have to pinch myself to actually believe what I’m allowed to do, what I’m making happen, and it’s incredibly rewarding.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest misconception you think people have about you?

Simon Leslie: You tell me.

Samir Husni: (Laughs)

Simon Leslie: I only see positive; I don’t worry about what people say about me, everyone is entitled to their opinion. (Laughs) When I started out, people said I’d be bankrupt, and I use those statements from my younger years to motivate me, I was going to prove them wrong. In the last 10 years, how many times has someone told us that print was going to die, that there is no place for print and they’re wrong. And they’ll continue to be wrong.

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; or something else? How do you unwind?

Simon Leslie: You’ll probably listen to a podcast with me. You’ll find me with my earphones in and working on my brain, working on my knowledge, working at how I can learn to get better, and relaxing, I do meditation. It’s really important to me to give my family time as well, so I’m making sure that I’m sharing my knowledge with them and that we’re all growing together. I’m the father of four boys and I’m incredibly proud of the way they’re all developing. And that’s good, because for a long time I was an absent father, but I’m very proud of them.

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

Simon Leslie: Normally indigestion. (Laughs) No, it’s very rare that I get up at night, I sleep really well.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Spectator Magazine: The British Are Coming… The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Freddy Gray, Editor, The Spectator, US Edition…

September 30, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“I think people like having The Spectator on their coffee tables at home, and I believe they like the physicality of a printed product. People are tired of looking at screens. You know, we used to talk about “lean back and lean forward” with publications. Lean forward with things like The Economist, lean back with things like Vanity Fair, but I’ve always thought The Spectator was both. We’re informative and we’re entertaining, something that you can read at home and relax with.”…Freddy Gray

The Spectator, one of the world’s oldest, continuously published magazines (since 1828), is launching a U.S. monthly print version of the magazine on October 1 after starting a U.S. digital presence last year. Freddy Gray is the editor of the new American edition, and deputy editor of its British bulwark, The Spectator, a weekly which  features politics, culture, and current affairs.

The Spectator’s brand of journalism is unique and doesn’t strive to have its readers agree with them. In fact, according to Freddy, he would prefer a little dissension between the content and the reader, it makes for a richer relationship.

I spoke with Freddy recently and we talked about this new American version of the British magazine that’s been around for almost two centuries. Freddy said the powers-that-be at The Spectator were very pleased with how the U.S. website had done here in the states in the year since it began. But why print? Well, the ink on paper magazine has performed excellently in the U.K. for the past three years, no reason to think it won’t here as well.

And while The Spectator is trying to do something unique, Freddy said if he had to compare it to another magazine here in the states, its competition, it would have to be a title like National Review, but they don’t really see themselves as strictly a political magazine, since they have a big focus on books and art, and life in the realm. “We have a whole life section, which is about living life. And I think that makes us unique,” Freddy shared.

His perspective is they aren’t publishing stories in order to tell readers how to think. They aren’t politics bores. They aren’t interested in shaping the conservative or any other movement. They are The Spectator: their highest priority is to provide readers with engaging, beautifully written and entertaining copy.

So, I hope that you enjoy this tale from across the pond that is landing on our American shores soon, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Freddy Gray, editor, The Spectator (U.S.).

But first the sound-bites:

On why he feels in this digital age there is a need for another print publication, especially one where there are conflicting opinions on the content: The reason we are encouraged by what The Spectator has done so far in the U.S., is that the website has done so well in the last year from scratch. And we know that print works for us in the U.K., it’s been doing really well for the last three years. And I think The Spectator’s USP is “don’t think alike.” We like to publish different opinions in the same magazine. In a world that’s increasingly tribal and polarized, I think people quite enjoy that. Readers like to be challenged.

On how the print edition will be different from the website: The print edition’s features will be more durable, obviously the website is a daily take on the passing scene, but the print edition is a monthly thing.

On what he feels will be the audience’s expectation after reading the first issue and what will be the “wow factor” making them want more: The idea is to challenge and entertain. The Spectator has kept a sense of fun, although I’m a great admirer of American magazines like the National Review and I used to work for The American Conservative. So, I think they’re all great magazines, but I think something that happened with American publications is they stopped having fun. And The Spectator has always kept a sense of humor and that is sorely lacking in these rather stiff and puritanical times.

On whether he feels working for The American Conservative magazine in the past will help him create this new political magazine now: Yes, I think so. The American Conservative is a very interesting publication and a very great publication, because it was set up to kind of oppose the war in Iraq when the rest of the conservative media were thundering toward the invasion of Iraq. It gave me an insight into the Conservative movement, such as it is, that perhaps other British people don’t quite have.

On the biggest challenge he thinks the magazine will have here in the States: The biggest challenge is going to be finding our audience, though we’re starting to do that now. I suppose the biggest challenge is in not falling into these sort of tribal impulses and the nature of these culture wars.

On the rather hefty subscription price of $24 per quarter after the initial first three months for $10: I think you’ll find a higher quality of writing and a higher quality of thinking. And that’s worth paying for.

On this combination of writing and thinking in The Spectator: I’m not exactly sure how much you know about The Spectator, but we’ve always published the greatest English writers. You can look back: Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, and many more. We also published quite a few great American writers: Michael Lewis, for example, we published his first-ever piece in The Spectator. We’ve always had this ability to focus on good writing and good writing is a product of good thinking. And that’s something we specialize in.

On how he balances his job between being deputy editor of the mother ship, The Spectator, and editor of the newborn The Spectator in the U.S.: With great difficulty. (Laughs) My editor back in London has been extremely kind and generous and has allowed me to focus on this project, certainly for the last couple of months, almost exclusively. At the moment, I’m pretty much focused on the American title.

On who is his competition in America: I think we’re trying to do something unique, but I suppose the natural competition would be the other conservative magazines like National Review, but I think we’re actually trying to do something a bit different. We sort of see ourselves as not really a political magazine, everybody obsesses over politics in America, and it is fascinating; we’re fascinated by politics, but we also have a big focus on books and art, and life in the round. We have a whole life section, which is about living life. And I think that makes us unique.

On why he thinks, in this digital age, The Spectator has seen this resurgence in print in the U.K. for the last three years: There is a combination of things. I think people like having The Spectator on their coffee tables at home, and I believe they like the physicality of a printed product. People are tired of looking at screens. You know, we used to talk about “lean back and lean forward” with publications. Lean forward with things like The Economist, lean back with things like Vanity Fair, but I’ve always thought The Spectator was both. We’re informative and we’re entertaining, something that you can read at home and relax with.

On what he would hope to tell someone he had accomplished with the magazine in one year: We want to get a foothold in the American magazine market. And I’m confident that we’ll do that.

On whether they’re in it for the long run: We are in it for the long run, our owner is very supportive. And I think they’re going to back us.

On how he would introduce The Spectator to his American audience: The story I would tell people is when I was starting The Spectator there was a letter in it from a reader and it said, I’ve just read the latest issue of The Spectator and I agreed with every article, therefore I’d like to cancel my subscription. And I’ve always thought that’s the great appeal of The Spectator, is that every magazine should have something that you profoundly disagree with or something that irritates you. We can challenge you, but you have to read it and enter into our world, which is a world of challenging what you think and being amusing.

On his opinion of today’s journalism being a bit hard to pinpoint: I think there’s an interesting difference, isn’t there, between the American approach to journalism and the British approach. Americans tend to take journalism a bit too seriously, I think. And it can become a bit stiff and a sort of civic duty. The British probably have the reverse problem of not really caring what’s true and just banging out anything anyway. (Laughs) I think The Spectator is a happy medium between the two.

On anything he’d like to add: I don’t know if you’ve seen our first editorial about our link to America. I think the history of The Spectator in America is quite interesting. The fact that we supported the North in the Civil War and that the former editor was invited to the White House by Teddy Roosevelt when he came over to work on The Spectator. I can’t say that I’ve been offered the same hospitality. (Laughs) But I am happy to be here.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: (Laughs) I think there are many conceptions about Freddy Gray, so I don’t know if there are many misconceptions, I try not to talk about myself. (Laughs again) I suppose people might think that I’m a bit more rightwing than I am. I’d like to think that a bit like The Spectator, I’m quite heterodox, I have different opinions about different things. I’m not informed by one particular ideology. I like to think differently.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I would almost certainly be drinking a glass of wine and I like reading books, and seeing friends and family, that’s what I do most of the time.

On what keeps him up at night: The time difference between America and Britain. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Freddy Gray, editor, The Spectator.

Samir Husni: In the middle of everything that’s taking place in the magazine industry today, why do you feel there is a need for yet another publication, one where half of the readers may agree with the content and the other half may not?

Freddy Gray: The reason we are encouraged by what The Spectator has done so far in the U.S., is that the website has done so well in the last year from scratch. And we know that print works for us in the U.K., it’s been doing really well for the last three years. And I think The Spectator’s USP is “don’t think alike.” We like to publish different opinions in the same magazine. In a world that’s increasingly tribal and polarized, I think people quite enjoy that. Readers like to be challenged.

Samir Husni: How do you think the print edition will be different from what you’ve created on the web?

Freddy Gray: The print edition’s features will be more durable, obviously the website is a daily take on the passing scene, but the print edition is a monthly thing.

Samir Husni: Once I flip through that first issue, what is the expectation from the audience, whether they’re familiar with your website or not? What are you going to offer them and me that is going to wow us to want more?

Freddy Gray: The idea is to challenge and entertain. The Spectator has kept a sense of fun, although I’m a great admirer of American magazines like the National Review and I used to work for The American Conservative. So, I think they’re all great magazines, but I think something that happened with American publications is they stopped having fun. And The Spectator has always kept a sense of humor and that is sorely lacking in these rather stiff and puritanical times.

Samir Husni: You mentioned that you worked at The American Conservative magazine, you were the literary editor there, do you think your background will help you create this new political magazine that has a bit of a twist, so to speak?

Freddy Gray: Yes, I think so. The American Conservative is a very interesting publication and a very great publication, because it was set up to kind of oppose the war in Iraq when the rest of the conservative media were thundering toward the invasion of Iraq. It gave me an insight into the Conservative movement, such as it is, that perhaps other British people don’t quite have.

Samir Husni: The first American issue of The Spectator is coming out on Tuesday, October 1. What do you think is going to be your biggest challenge?

Freddy Gray: The biggest challenge is going to be finding our audience, though we’re starting to do that now. I suppose the biggest challenge is in not falling into these sort of tribal impulses and the nature of these culture wars.

Samir Husni: I see that the magazine is going to be rather expensive, you can get the first three months for $10, but then it’s going to be $24 for every quarter after that. In comparison to most of the American magazines that’s a hefty price to pay. What’s the philosophy behind that?

Freddy Gray: I think you’ll find a higher quality of writing and a higher quality of thinking. And that’s worth paying for.

Samir Husni: Tell me more about that combination of the writing and the thinking.

Freddy Gray: I’m not exactly sure how much you know about The Spectator, but we’ve always published the greatest English writers. You can look back: Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, and many more. We also published quite a few great American writers: Michael Lewis, for example, we published his first-ever piece in The Spectator. We’ve always had this ability to focus on good writing and good writing is a product of good thinking. And that’s something we specialize in.

Samir Husni: How do you balance your job between being deputy editor of the mother ship, The Spectator, and editor of the newborn The Spectator in the U.S.?

Freddy Gray: With great difficulty. (Laughs) My editor back in London has been extremely kind and generous and has allowed me to focus on this project, certainly for the last couple of months, almost exclusively. At the moment, I’m pretty much focused on the American title.

Samir Husni: Who’s your competition in America?

Freddy Gray: I think we’re trying to do something unique, but I suppose the natural competition would be the other conservative magazines like National Review, but I think we’re actually trying to do something a bit different. We sort of see ourselves as not really a political magazine, everybody obsesses over politics in America, and it is fascinating; we’re fascinated by politics, but we also have a big focus on books and art, and life in the round. We have a whole life section, which is about living life. And I think that makes us unique.

Samir Husni: You said that in the U.K. The Spectator has had great success in print for the last three years, and needless to say, it is one of the oldest, continuously published magazines in the world. Why do you think, in this digital age, it has seen this resurgence in print for the last three years?

Freddy Gray: There is a combination of things. I think people like having The Spectator on their coffee tables at home, and I believe they like the physicality of a printed product. People are tired of looking at screens. You know, we used to talk about “lean back and lean forward” with publications. Lean forward with things like The Economist, lean back with things like Vanity Fair, but I’ve always thought The Spectator was both. We’re informative and we’re entertaining, something that you can read at home and relax with.

 Samir Husni: Do you have any set goals? If you and I are having this conversation one year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished with The Spectator?

Freddy Gray: We want to get a foothold in the American magazine market. And I’m confident that we’ll do that.

Samir Husni: We both know it takes deep pockets to start a magazine. Is there a dedicated investor who is going to keep this going even if you hit some stumbling blocks along the way? Are you in it for the long run?

Freddy Gray: We are in it for the long run, our owner is very supportive. And I think they’re going to back us.

Samir Husni: How would you introduce The Spectator to your American audience? What’s your elevator pitch?

Freddy Gray: The story I would tell people is when I was starting The Spectator there was a letter in it from a reader and it said, I’ve just read the latest issue of The Spectator and I agreed with every article, therefore I’d like to cancel my subscription. And I’ve always thought that’s the great appeal of The Spectator, is that every magazine should have something that you profoundly disagree with or something that irritates you. We can challenge you, but you have to read it and enter into our world, which is a world of challenging what you think and being amusing.

Samir Husni: I’ve read your editorial about the uniqueness of the brand of journalism, and in this day and age, where even as a professor of journalism we are sometimes at a loss for what to teach students, is journalism good or bad…

Freddy Gray: I think there’s an interesting difference, isn’t there, between the American approach to journalism and the British approach. Americans tend to take journalism a bit too seriously, I think. And it can become a bit stiff and a sort of civic duty. The British probably have the reverse problem of not really caring what’s true and just banging out anything anyway. (Laughs) I think The Spectator is a happy medium between the two.

Samir Husni:  Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Freddy Gray: I don’t know if you’ve seen our first editorial about our link to America. I think the history of The Spectator in America is quite interesting. The fact that we supported the North in the Civil War and that the former editor was invited to the White House by Teddy Roosevelt when he came over to work on The Spectator. I can’t say that I’ve been offered the same hospitality. (Laughs) But I am happy to be here.

Samir Husni: As we look at the role of the journalist today, what do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

Freddy Gray: (Laughs) I think there are many conceptions about Freddy Gray, so I don’t know if there are many misconceptions, I try not to talk about myself. (Laughs again) I suppose people might think that I’m a bit more rightwing than I am. I’d like to think that a bit like The Spectator, I’m quite heterodox, I have different opinions about different things. I’m not informed by one particular ideology. I like to think differently.

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; gardening; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Freddy Gray: I would almost certainly be drinking a glass of wine and I like reading books, and seeing friends and family, that’s what I do most of the time.

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

Freddy Gray: The time difference between America and Britain. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

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The Wonderful World Of New International Magazines… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

September 12, 2019

In today’s digital world, many people think print magazines, both new and established, are barely hanging on by the hair of their inky chin chins. I assure you, that is not the case. From the west coast to the east coast, north to south, new magazines in the United States are being loaded onto newsstands daily, and the ink of legacy print, for the most part, still smells as strongly today as it did years ago; albeit, often in a totally different way.

But what about international titles, what is the health status of magazines in other countries? Well, Mr. Magazine™ is happy to report life in the wonderful world of magazines would appear to be flourishing around the globe.

Here are 12 new titles from all over the world, proving that ink on paper is alive and well everywhere. And please take note of the abundance of “me time” titles: Declutter Your Life, Dream Journal, and Wellness, to name a few. People everywhere are beginning to realize the importance of stepping away from those screens every once in awhile.

In alphabetical order):

Aww is a new magazine from Hong Kong that’s first issue is the “Meow & Woof” issue and has more than 200 illustrations from many different artists, along with great content on the topic of pets. The illustrations are wonderful and the content is diverse and has everything from recipes to travel, with animal elements. The Zen is amazing.

Bellissimo is from two London-based photographers, Paolo Zerbini and Ivan Ruberto, and according to its creators: it is dedicated to glorify the understated. The first issue takes us on a hidden tour of the beach of Rome, Ostia, and showcases photographs of places not commonly known, but amazingly unique. It’s a great new title.

Cacao Magazine is the first international print magazine fully dedicated to craft chocolate. And much like the chocolate making process itself, the layout of the magazine follows the “bean-to-bar” sequence. This new title was born in Berlin and its first issue is dedicated to the craft chocolate enthusiasts of Germany. Mr. Magazine™ is looking forward to issue two. Yummy.

Citizen is a new quarterly magazine for everybody engaged in the challenge of creating the future city. Published by the London School of Architecture, the magazine’s mission is to allow people living in cities to have more fulfilled and more sustainable lives. It’s beautifully well done and very well received here in Mr. Magazine’s™ world.

Creative Journeys is a new title from the creators of Project Calm magazine, our friends over in the U.K., and is filled with creative ideas and craft projects inspired by travel. It’s packed with artistic inspiration from around the world and you can read about art, music, mindfulness, maps, photography and prints.

Dream Journal is another new magazine from Future pic, a global multi-platform media company based in the U.K., but with offices in Australia in the U.S. The magazine was born to guide you on a path to reflection, self-evaluation and being more mindful. Learn more about what dreaming is and use the dream diary to record and reflect on your dreams.

Learn How to Declutter Your Life is from the same folks who brought you the Dream Journal and is an interactive decluttering guide created to help one organize and simplify their life. And don’t we all need that?!

Recharge magazine is the third new title from Future pic and teaches us that it’s all too easy to get caught up in the busyness of our everyday lives and the demands placed upon us, whether by family members, friends, colleagues or clients. We have to Recharge, else we burn out.

Simply Lettering is another British title for anyone interested in modern calligraphy, from complete beginners to seasoned experts. The first issue comes complete with a brush lettering starting kit and practice sheets and templates. Some more me-time is waiting.

Take Care magazine is a collection of creative responses to the U.K. housing crisis, ranging from art and literature to journalism. Five friends who were between London and Glasgow created the magazine: Sarah Bethan Jones, Charlotte Fountaine, Frances Gordon, Lewis Gordon and Romany Rowell. It came to life through Kickstarter and the niche title is only shipping to the United Kingdom for now.

Tortoise Quarterly is a new magazine from Tortoise Media in England. Tortoise Media was another Kickstarter success story and was started to slow down the news. They do no breaking news; just what drives today’s news stories. The launch issue of its magazine is called “Journeys,” and is very proud of its slow news ways – translation – Tortoise Quarterly loves its print format.

(A Journal for) Wellness is one more new title from the same folks across the pond that gave us Creative Journeys and Project Calm. This beautiful journal covers some key areas in your day-to-day living – Eat, Sleep, Move, Relax, Think, Grow and Create – to help you improve, develop or just explore your wellbeing.

And there you have it! Magazines are sprouting everywhere, from one corner of this big beautiful world to another. Mr. Magazine™ is very happy to bring you this glimpse of international beauty when it comes to new print titles.

Keep an eye out for more from Mr. Magazine’s™ Wonderful World of Magazines. You never know what I may find out there, or where I’ll find it!

Until the next time…

I’ll see you at the newsstands, here and across the pond…

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From Front Row To Front Cover: A Spellbinding And Intoxicating New Magazine Book By Didier Guérin…

July 31, 2019

In a career spanning over 40 years, Didier Guérin has launched over 40 magazines and websites.  In his new book, From Front Row To Front Cover,  he sums up those 40 years in a captivating 230 pages. And believe me, once you open the first page you can’t put the book down until you are finished.

Didier asked me to write the introduction to his book and I was more than delighted to do so.  What follows is the introduction that I wrote.

From Front Row to Front Cover: Inside the Business of International Fashion Magazines

Introduction by Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

Spellbinding And Intoxicating Like A Fine Glass Of Red Wine

To me there are three types of books that are published: the book with the cover that attracts you, but not enough to motivate you to read it; the book that you pick up because of the cover and you start reading it, but then you lose interest; and finally, the book that you pick up not just for the cover, but for the content as well, and you can’t put it down, you start reading and you absolutely have to finish it, cover to cover. Didier Guérin’s “From Front Row to Front Cover – Inside the Business of International Fashion Magazines” is most definitely the latter, once you start reading it you can’t put it down.

I first met Didier Guérin through the pages of Elle magazine, when he brought the publication to the United States on behalf of the Hachette Filipacchi-News Corp joint venture. As I vividly remember him telling me, I was the first person to send him a letter congratulating him about Ellecoming to the U.S.

With Didier Guérin and The University of Mississippi’s Chancellor Gerald Turner in 1987.

It wasn’t long after that, I invited Didier to come to the University of Mississippi in 1987 and he very graciously accepted my invitation. He came and he spoke to my students here and that began a journey for him that was parallel to my own in the magazine world, yet he was on the inside looking out, while I was always on the outside looking in.

I was so impressed by Didier’s passion for the magazine world and his business acumen when he came to speak to my students. I felt his struggles were so similar to my own struggles, trying to understand what makes a magazine work; what makes a magazine fail; what are the processes of launching a magazine. He was just coming out of the strife of spending almost two years trying to launchEllein the United States and facing all of the obstacles from every magazine media company back then until the magazine was launched in 1985, and then later he launched Premierein 1987.

So, to me Didier Guérin is much more than a magazine maker, he is an experience maker. He experienced the magazines that he made and that’s why if you read his book, “From Front Row to Front Cover,” while he wasn’t on the cover of any magazine, he was the cover of the magazine. His new book is an intimate journey through the life of someone who for 40 years has not only followed the magazine industry, but was immersed in it, both as an idea-maker and a business-maker. The combination of those two gives the book an authenticity and realism that is unparalleled.

After we met in 1987, I asked him to write the introduction to my book, “Samir Husni’s Guide to New Magazines,” the 1988 edition. And one of his most memorable lines in that missive was, “Launching a magazine is such a seductive idea for so many people, that it beats even racing cars, a dream that every boy and some girls in America have had at least once.” And for Didier, and myself, that seduction is very real.

“From Front Row to Front Cover” takes us through Didier’s childhood and university days in Paris, to his time with Hachette Filipacchi and launchingEllein the United States. It is an exciting and often gut-wrenching tale of one young man’s foray into the world of magazines and magazine making, while searching for his own personal happiness within the realms of love and finding that “right” person. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Didier relives leaving Hachette and moving to Condé Nast in 1995, and the angst that decision caused him. Then the launches of VogueTaiwan and GlamourKorea, preparing for VogueChina and launching Vogue Japan, and ultimately his firing from Condé Nast with no warning or reason.

The book is one man’s intimate and powerful journey through the ups and downs, power plays, and often hard decisions made within the higher echelons of the magazine publishing business. It is a read that will keep you spellbound and intoxicated without benefit of your favorite glass of wine.

When Didier asked me to write this introduction I was at once both honored and humbled to be able to return his own large favor to me all those years ago. But after receiving “From Front Row to Front Cover – Inside the Business of International Fashion Magazines,” I can’t imagine not writing it. It made a compelling impact on me and gave me such a deeper insight into the magazines that I have spent my life in love with. So for this, thank you, Didier. Thank you for the opportunity to do for you what you did for me, but thank you more for the amazing read.

To learn more about From Front Row To Front Cover click here and to order a copy of the book click here.

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The Wonderful Wonderful World Of New Magazines… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

August 24, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Spin the globe of this wonderful planet we live on and at any point of stop – almost surely you’ll find a new magazine’s homeland. From China to Latvia, Lebanon to the U.S., new titles are being born and welcomed onto newsstands. Each and every one is a beautiful edition to the world of print and offers another voice into the magazine conversation. The following titles are ones that I discovered being published in English. I hope you enjoy their beautiful covers!

Speaking of Latvia, since leaving the Soviet Union in 1991, the country has grown and developed with a wealth of new energy in different art forms – and a new title called Jezga is showcasing many of those new talents. Welcome Jezga to the family!

And from the U.K comes A Profound Waste of Time, a new independent title inspired by videogames that are celebrated as an art form. It’s a richly designed title gamers and magazine lovers alike will enjoy! Welcome!

Another Gaze, a feminist film journal also from the U.K., was established to highlight the gender inequality of the film industry and amplify the voices of great, often overlooked, filmmakers who identify as women.

Journal du Thé is another U.K. title that invites the reader to explore contemporary tea culture while it wows you with great stories. The magazine wants us to learn about the universe that revolves around our favorite beverage. Welcome aboard!

More or Less is a new magazine from the U.K. that is a beautiful, oversized coffee table title that seeks to provoke thought about the decisions we make when we buy clothes – factoring in the realities of cost and consumption. Welcome!

And the United Kingdom is really blossoming with new titles as Drugstore Culture, a magazine that’s mission is to define and defend all that is best in our culture – particularly film, but also art, music, literature and politics. The almost pocket-sized magazine is an interesting concept.

For is a new magazine that highlights issues facing humanity with a positive, optimistic attitude. It focuses on people who are improving the lives of others and our common humanity. Using a theme each issue, the new title’s first is all about maturing. This magazine should age gracefully!

Plantain Papers comes to us from England and is an independent bi-annual magazine which expresses stories and cultural experiences involving people who love plaintains. From Ghana to Detroit each piece brings together lovers of the fruit from around the world. As you can see – niche is still the name of the game!

And then there’s Be Water Journal, which was founded in 2017, by a group of professional editors, photographers, designers etc. in Guangzhou City, China. The name “Be Water” comes from a famous quote by Bruce Lee and the publication is just as intriguing. The magazine describes its mission as narrowing the focus on “person,” capturing the “Cultural Creatives” from around the world, people that immerse themselves in creation and life. With a website and an annual bookazine, this Eastern offering seems to be in it for the long haul. Welcome to to the world of magazines!

From the people behind The Outpost comes a Dance Mag, a global dance magazine that transcends differences, distances, and disciplines to tell the stories of people from all over the world, who are dancing their lives and giving their bodies a voice. From Beirut, Lebanon this new title is as beautifully done as it is captivating.

Desired Landscapes is a title from Greece and explores the sense of a place and the problem of the representation of the urban experience through graphic design, mapping, poetic observations, the vernacular and ephemera.

The Adventure Handbook is an independent collective of creators, brought together by redefining travel writing and the meaning of ‘adventure.’ A photography magazine about modern exploration, The Adventure Handbook is one of Australia’s latest offerings and a beautiful edition to newsstands.

PTSD Journal is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers and their loved ones. It shines a light on the awareness, diagnosis and treatment of a disorder affecting more than 30 million Americans, their families, and loved ones. A great new title from the good old U.S.A.

And for good measure, a new comic book called It Came Out On A Wednesday, a new title from New England’s Alterna Comics and the first of their bi-monthly anthology series. It is chock full of snippets, interviews, contests, and much more.

As Mr. Magazine™ continues to travel the globe (albeit most times from the newsstands) looking for these amazing new delicacies, keep an eye out for my next installation of The Wonderful World of Magazines, it’s sure to be worthy of the cover of a magazine!

Until next time…

See you at the newsstands…

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Garment: Where Fashion Shows Off In Print…

August 1, 2018

“Garment embraces the battle of the opposites, and this is what [mis]suiting is all about.” Thus states Editor in Chief Emma-Chase Laflamme in her Editor’s Letter of the new Amsterdam Fashion Institute’s magazine Garment.

She goes on to say, “We believe there is no better analogy to reflect the evolution and current state of the fashion industry than the suit…They say if the suit fits, wear it. Garment says, does it have to? Welcome to the [mis]suit issue.”

The annual publication from Amsterdam University of Applied Science’s Fashion Institute has been a fixture in the Dutch magazine world for more than a decade. Each issue is unique, as unique as the students and faculty who creates it.

After a short hiatus of no print issue, this summer the magazine is back in print. Frank Jurgen Wijlens, one of two editorial coaches of the magazine and the program coordinator, tells me in a note that accompanied the magazine, “Dear Samir, happy to show we were back to print. Happy readings. All the best, Frank.”

Happy readings indeed. Well designed, well edited, great photography and greater [mis]suits.

Another good example of what print can deliver that digital can’t. The sense of holding this issue of Garment in your hands, flipping the nicely sewn pages (no pun intended), is worth every penny of the 13 Euros that the magazine costs.

Want your own copy? Go to http://www.hva.nl/amfi or http://www.amfi.nl

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Fighting For Freedom, Democracy, And Justice – The Lebanese Way: Journalist Paula Yacoubian, The Newest Member Of The Lebanese Parliament In An Exclusive Interview with Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni.

July 23, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Report From Lebanon

Paula Yacoubian, journalist and one of the newest members of the Lebanese Parliament.

“I feel like I have an obligation to give back and I enjoy it. I love to feel that I’m useful and that I’m helping. And honestly, I cannot imagine myself sitting around. Sometimes I get tired and I want to go and just have fun like everyone else. I go for one day and then the next I realize that what’s fun for me is helping people. So, it’s not only an obligation, it’s a pleasure to help, honestly.” Paula Yacoubian…

“Although it is not yet in the Guinness book of records, I read my first national newscast at the age of 17. Reading the news was not the only skill I started to develop… I had the chance to develop my news writing and language skills…” So starts the biography of one of the most recognized names in Lebanese media Paula Yacoubian. At age 42, Ms. Yacoubian was elected last May to the Lebanese Parliament.

During my visit to Lebanon, I was so intrigued by the story of Paula Yacoubian, I felt the need to meet with her and find out more about the many changes that took place in the Lebanese media since I left my home country in 1978.

Honest, truthful, energetic, ambitious, are but a few of the adjectives that I can think of after my meeting with Paula. She beams with enthusiasm as she recalls her career and her plans now as a member of the parliament rather than a member of the media. The old adage, “nothing will stop us now,” is certainly applicable to her mindset.

I met with Paula at al Mandaloun Café in the Achrafieh district of Beirut and the conversation that followed shed some light on her career, the media, and the issues that are of major concern to her and, if I might add, the majority of the Lebanese people.

“Is it more powerful to be a journalist or a politician in Lebanon?” I asked her. Paula Yacoubian’s answer will surprise you.

Reporting from Beirut. This is the first of interviews and stories about the media in Lebanon, my birth country.

So join me as we go on a journey of Lebanese media and politics in the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Paula Yacoubian.

But first the sound-bites:

On how Lebanese media has changed in the 25 years she has been involved with journalism: Technically, it has changed and evolved. We have beautiful, big studios and great technologies. However, the problem is the owners are the same and the media in Lebanon is part of the political system.

On who supports Lebanese media: All Lebanese press is supported. Even the Lebanese media that is published outside is no longer supported by foreign governments, but rather is supported by well-known, influential Lebanese individuals. There is no more foreign support of the media in this day and age in Lebanon. The days that Qadafi or other Arab leaders paid to help and launch Lebanese media are long gone.

On some of the stumbling blocks that she’s faced in starting her own communications company: I decided to start my own company because I knew as a journalist I would never be free unless I had my own company. As an employee I would never have the freedom that I would have as the owner, the boss. I care about freedom a lot and without ownership there is no financial security, no building self-confidence and no independence. Because, as you know, working for someone else is never secure. At any time they can let you go regardless of your performance or ability.

On the moment she knew that she wanted to be a journalist:
It happened by pure coincidence. I was paying a visit to someone in television and they asked me would I be interested in doing a screen test. And I said yes, why not. I was in the elevator with the lady and I asked her what kind of anchor she was looking for and she said a news anchor. I wondered how in the world I could do it, but I took the test. And the grammar wasn’t that hard to read and they liked my voice. So, the next day they told me I was hired.

On whether she feels that she has reached the top of her profession or that she still has more climbing to do: It depends on how you want to measure it. My mom’s ambition for me was to have a decent job and to have security. When I look back, I arrived a very long time ago, but you don’t know what life has in store for you around the next corner. And things unfold in your life. Now my ambitions are much, much bigger. I want to try and make a difference in my country. I want people to believe again that they can do change. And if they elect someone out of the box, out of the system, out of the ruling parties, they will do the right thing. This is how change happens.

On her social activism and why she always felt compelled to keep doing more:

“I want to try and make a difference in my country. I want people to believe again that they can do change.” Paula Yacoubian to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni.

I like to be proactive with my life and when I feel that I can help, that I can bring something to the society that has given me so much, I like to pay back. The Dafa Campaign started because I was visiting one of the Syrian camps and it was so awful; the conditions were not human. So, I decided to do something. And I realized when you are a well-known figure you can do so much more than anyone else. A famous person can get things done, but most people don’t think of using their fame to do something for society.

On whether her work as a journalist was easier than her work as a member of Parliament: My work as a journalist wasn’t bringing any change to society. People don’t listen to journalists, unfortunately for us. I wish they did. They would know so much more. If they listened to journalists more than the politicians, they wouldn’t be living in denial. Now that I’m a politician, they listen much more to what I say, it gets more coverage.

On the trust factor that’s missing in both journalism and politics right now and the fact that she represents both: The campaigns in my race were really unheard of. They said all kinds of things about me. Some parties told very Christian conservatives that I was Muslim, because I was once married to a Muslim. I named my son Paul, he is baptized. I’ve never changed my name, it’s always been Paula.

On whether she can ever shed the journalistic Paula and just be the politician: I really wasn’t a journalist when I was a journalist. I was more of a politician, I used to give my opinion. I’ve never thought that objectivity was a really important part of being a journalist. I was always more of a politician when I was a journalist, because living in Lebanon you cannot just cover the news, the news is your life. You just can’t be objective in Lebanon and you shouldn’t be. Amanpour said it in a very nice way, being useful is more important than being objective.

On why she’s never seemed to mind crossing television networks: And it was also any challenge for me was a new challenge. I don’t like routine; I don’t like to keep on with the same thing. I get bored easily and I like new challenges, so that was partly why I used to change television stations. And sometimes circumstances forced me. Like MTV, I had to leave due to a contract obligation.

On how she felt being chosen to conduct an interview with the current Prime Minister: I think they chose the television, someone chose that that interview should be on Future Television and I was the only one who had a political show on Future TV, so I think that the network was very lucky that I was the person conducting the interview because I did everything possible to help the network with the situation they were in. And I did that despite the fact that maybe it was against my own interests, but I did what I had to do and I did the right thing without thinking twice about whether it was the thing for me to do or not.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Honestly, you wouldn’t find me in the house. I don’t go back to the house before midnight. Tonight for instance, I’m having dinner with someone, an environmental specialist, before that I have another engagement, and before that another meeting. I have continuous meetings usually. Normally, I start around 8:00 a.m. and have meetings all day and then dinners in the evening that are related to what I do, such as the garbage crisis.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: Humbleness, because this is also one of our major problems in Lebanon, we all think that we know about everything and no one wants to be just a normal citizen, everyone wants to be someone. And we have an attitude problem. So, I just remind myself everyday about being humble, it’s just so important to stay in touch with reality and be human.

On what keeps her up at night: The garbage crisis, especially the environment. I used to say a few years ago that we can’t swim in our sea anymore. Very soon our kids will not be able to touch the sea and people would say that I was so pessimistic. And then before we realized it, it’s there. You cannot swim anywhere on many of our shores, and things are getting worse and worse by the day. And nobody cares.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Paula Yacoubian, acclaimed journalist, talk show host, and member of the Lebanese Parliament.

Reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.

Samir Husni: You’ve been at this for almost 25 years now; you started as a journalist at 17-years-old. Briefly, from your point of view, tell me how the Lebanese media has changed in those 25 years.

Paula Yacoubian: Technically, it has changed and evolved. We have beautiful, big studios and great technologies. However, the problem is the owners are the same and the media in Lebanon is part of the political system. And this is the same since the end of the civil war. They’re either directly party television or newspapers, or independent television or newspapers that need a political cover to support or defend in order for it to survive. There is really no free press in Lebanon, all the media are nothing but voices of the authority, I am sad to say.

Samir Husni: One of the very first articles I wrote in the States was about who owns the Lebanese press and I said there are three groups: the political parties, the Arab government and the foreign governments.

Paula Yacoubian: All Lebanese press is supported. Even the Lebanese media that is published outside is no longer supported by foreign governments, but rather is supported by well-known, influential Lebanese individuals. There is no more foreign support of the media in this day and age in Lebanon. The days that Qadafi or other Arab leaders paid to help and launch Lebanese media are long gone.

Samir Husni: You’ve done a lot and have established an integrated communications company that you are the CEO of. What have been some of the stumbling blocks that you, as a journalist, have faced throughout your career?

Paula Yacoubian: I decided to start my own company because I knew as a journalist I would never be free unless I had my own company. As an employee I would never have the freedom that I would have as the owner, the boss. I care about freedom a lot and without ownership there is no financial security, no building self-confidence and no independence. Because, as you know, working for someone else is never secure. At any time they can let you go regardless of your performance or ability.

Samir Husni: When Henri Sfeir took a chance on you, you were 17-years-old.

“My work as a journalist wasn’t bringing any change to society,” Paula Yacoubian to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

Paula Yacoubian: (Laughs) I lied about my age. I said I was 21, and he wasn’t the one to decide, actually. There was someone else who said that this girl could be an anchor and I told him that I was studying political science and that was how I started. And then he told me that my Arabic was very good, even though I was Armenian. And that’s when I told him that they were asking for my papers and I couldn’t bring any papers. And I told him that I was 17 and didn’t have any degree.

But I said one day I will have a political science degree and that’s when he told me to go and do not worry about it. So, I started with a lie and I never thought it would continue, but it was something to do during the summertime. But then it took over my whole life and I’m still somehow, even in what I do right now, I still have my journalistic skills and curiosity, even in my new job.

Samir Husni: You have a new job, as a member of the Lebanese Parliament. I guess congratulations are in order.

Paula Yacoubian: Thank you.

Samir Husni: At 17, even before going to college, when was that moment that you said this is it, this is what I want to do?

Paula Yacoubian: It happened by pure coincidence. I was paying a visit to someone in television and they asked me would I be interested in doing a screen test. And I said yes, why not. I was in the elevator with the lady and I asked her what kind of anchor she was looking for and she said a news anchor. I wondered how in the world I could do it, but I took the test. And the grammar wasn’t that hard to read and they liked my voice. So, the next day they told me I was hired.

It wasn’t something I planned or worked for or applied for; I didn’t even apply for the job. I didn’t fill out an application. But soon I was reading the newscast. And that’s how it happened. I had colleagues who helped me to read well and to know what I’m reading about. Then I learned Arabic and the grammar.

Samir Husni: But you moved from an anchorperson to a journalist, a reporter, an interviewer. And through the years you’ve become a household name in Lebanon and the Arab countries. When did you feel that you’d finally reached the top of your profession, or are you still climbing?

Paula Yacoubian: It depends on how you want to measure it. My mom’s ambition for me was to have a decent job and to have security. When I look back, I arrived a very long time ago, but you don’t know what life has in store for you around the next corner. And things unfold in your life.

Now my ambitions are much, much bigger. I want to try and make a difference in my country. I want people to believe again that they can do change. And if they elect someone out of the box, out of the system, out of the ruling parties, they will do the right thing. This is how change happens.

We have to overcome fears and believe that our country is not doomed and that it can have a future. And that the problem is with us and our choices and this political cast, this molding, and that it owns almost everything: the media, the money, the services. And they own the stories, they can do the stories the way they want. So, this is my new ambition now. But now the sky is the limit and if there are still Lebanese people who can still believe in anything, we can succeed.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I tell my students all of the time is that I never want them to say that the sky is the limit. I want them to say that they are the limit, such as Samir is the limit of himself.

Paula Yacoubian: Circumstances are important. I am lucky enough that people are ready to believe again. I think in four years we can have a major breakthrough and we can be a real alternative to this corrupt cast.

Samir Husni: But even before you entered politics, as a journalist you were involved with a lot of social issues. You did the Dafa Campaign, and I was reading some of your background and you’ve fought for women’s rights; you name it and you’ve done it. Why didn’t you just stop and enjoy being the top journalist and anchorperson in the country?

Paula Yacoubian: I like to be proactive with my life and when I feel that I can help, that I can bring something to the society that has given me so much, I like to pay back. The Dafa Campaign started because I was visiting one of the Syrian camps and it was so awful; the conditions were not human. So, I decided to do something. And I realized when you are a well-known figure you can do so much more than anyone else. A famous person can get things done, but most people don’t think of using their fame to do something for society.

For me, I feel like I have an obligation to give back and I enjoy it. I love to feel that I’m useful and that I’m helping. And honestly, I cannot imagine myself sitting around. Sometimes I get tired and I want to go and just have fun like everyone else. I go for one day and then the next I realize that what’s fun for me is helping people. So, it’s not only an obligation, it’s a pleasure to help, honestly.

Samir Husni: Do you think your work in journalism was easier than the work you will be doing as a member of Parliament?

Paula Yacoubian: My work as a journalist wasn’t bringing any change to society. People don’t listen to journalists, unfortunately for us. I wish they did. They would know so much more. If they listened to journalists more than the politicians, they wouldn’t be living in denial. Now that I’m a politician, they listen much more to what I say, it gets more coverage.

And others are always worried about my next step, what will I do. I think people are watching and they should be able to know what’s happening. They should be able to know the difference between smear campaigns and other things. I’m hoping that now I can do something if I continue, if I have the stamina and the energy. If I don’t get depressed. I can do a lot of things. But I need to feel that I have the support of the people. I think those who elected me are happy. And I hope that I’m making more people happy.

Samir Husni: Trust is the biggest missing factor in media today and in politics. And now you have double mistrust, you’re a journalist and a politician.

Paula Yacoubian: Not only that, they discredited me like no one else. The campaigns in my race were really unheard of. They said all kinds of things about me. Some parties told very Christian conservatives that I was Muslim, because I was once married to a Muslim. I named my son Paul, he is baptized. I’ve never changed my name, it’s always been Paula.

And still they had the guts to go and lie to people and tell them that I had changed my religion. With every Tweet they were saying different statements just to discredit me. And they were picking videos from my interviews, taking sound-bites and cutting them and it was going viral. Things like I wasn’t Armenian and people shouldn’t vote for me. It was a machine that had nothing to do but discredit me.

Samir Husni: But you overcame all of that and you were elected five weeks ago. Are you missing journalism? Can you ever shed the journalistic Paula and just be the politician?

Paula Yacoubian: No, I really wasn’t a journalist when I was a journalist. I was more of a politician, I used to give my opinion. I’ve never thought that objectivity was a really important part of being a journalist. I was always more of a politician when I was a journalist, because living in Lebanon you cannot just cover the news, the news is your life. You just can’t be objective in Lebanon and you shouldn’t be. Christiane Amanpour said it in a very nice way, being useful is more important than being objective.

Samir Husni: You started with the ICN (Independent Communications Network), then you went to LBCI, then MTV, then ART, and briefly at Al_Hurra in the United States. Your last job before being elected to the Lebanese Parliament last May was with Future TV. It seems that you didn’t mind working at politically diverse television stations. It seems to me, it was always Paula, rather than MTV; Paula rather than LBCI, etc…

Paula Yacoubian: Every new job for me was a new challenge. I don’t like routine; I don’t like to keep on with the same thing. I get bored easily and I like new challenges, so that was partly why I used to change television stations. And sometimes circumstances forced me. Like MTV, I had to leave due to a contract obligation.

So, it wasn’t always me choosing to leave or change television stations. I was always looking for something different. I never felt that this is what I want to do and this is where I want to stay. It’s more now that I feel that this is what I’m maybe destined for or what I’d like to do. I’m much, much better as a politician in Lebanon than being a journalist, because there is no independent journalism in Lebanon. It’s part of the system. All media outlets are part of the system.

Samir Husni: When the eyes of the world were on Paula, the only journalist to conduct a live interview with Prime Minister Hariri after he resigned from Saudi Arabia, every television channel, every country, the entire world was watching you. Can you describe for me the feeling that you had the night you were heading to the airport to do the interview and the world was watching you more than anybody else?

Paula Yacoubian: I think they chose the television station, someone decided that that interview should be on Future Television and I was the only one who had a political show on Future TV, so I think that the network was very lucky that I was the person conducting the interview because I did everything possible to help the network with the situation they were in. And I did that despite the fact that maybe it was against my own interests, but I did what I had to do and I did the right thing without thinking twice about whether it was the thing for me to do or not.

Samir Husni: My final typical three questions always start with this: 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?

Paula Yacoubian: Honestly, you wouldn’t find me in the house. I don’t go back to the house before midnight. Tonight for instance, I’m having dinner with someone, an environmental specialist, before that I have another engagement, and before that another meeting. I have continuous meetings usually. Normally, I start around 8:00 a.m. and have meetings all day and then dinners in the evening that are related to what I do, such as the garbage crisis.

So, it’s every day, ongoing. Day and night, working as a Parliamentarian. And also for the issues that I’m handling. It’s difficult to be up to standards when it comes to the garbage crisis because you have to be a bit of an environmentalist, chemist, and you have to be a lawyer to know how they are doing the TOR (terms of references). So, it’s not an easy job.

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

Paula Yacoubian: Humbleness, because this is also one of our major problems in Lebanon, we all think that we know about everything and no one wants to be just a normal citizen, everyone wants to be someone. And we have an attitude problem. So, I just remind myself everyday about being humble, it’s just so important to stay in touch with reality and be human.

And to know that chance and luck are important components in our lives and is what drives you anywhere you go. I believe there are people who are much more qualified than I am, in a much better position to do what I’m doing and they just don’t have the same chance. If we’re all aware of this, maybe we’ll all be more humble.

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

Paula Yacoubian: The garbage crisis, especially the environment. I used to say a few years ago that we can’t swim in our sea anymore. Very soon our kids will not be able to touch the sea and people would say that I was so pessimistic. And then before we realized it, it’s there. You cannot swim anywhere on many of our shores, and things are getting worse and worse by the day. And nobody cares.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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