Hello SMU and happy Tuesday! Today, we are launching a new series, ’10×10′, where we sit down with prominent individuals in the fashion, beauty, journalism, and media fields for 10 minutes, to ask 10 questions. We’ll be discussing everything about their positions, how they got there, and what they envision for their futures.
For those who may not be familiar, I’d like to introduce the editor at large of PaperCity Magazine and our founder, Christina Geyer. Eleven years ago, Christina set out to create a one-stop shop for fashion-obsessed SMU students who wanted inspiration, advice, and entertainment. Thus, SMUStyle was born. Being one of the first of its kind, Christina sought to provide SMU with quality content that revolved around fashion, beauty and Dallas culture, written by SMU students for SMU students. Shortly after its launch, SMUStyle took off and became the go-to for students as well as the Dallas community. Late last month, Christina transitioned from editor in chief of PaperCity Magazine to editor at large, as she accepted a new full-time job working as director of editorial for a large national brand.
I have recently sat down with Christina to talk about her vision, her career, and her advice for current SMU students.
1. What inspired you to create SMUStyle?
“My co-founder, Sarah Bray, and I were inspired to start SMUStyle for one simple reason: We wanted to write about fashion and lifestyle, but there were very few (if any) places for us to do so. The Daily Campus, at the time, published fashion content very rarely — and SMU did not have a fashion media program as they do now. Blogs were mostly personal “live journals” at the time, and social media (aside from Facebook, which was used primarily for social purposes) didn’t exist. And so, we bought the domain name, signed up for WordPress and started writing under a number of topics that interested us — and that we thought would help us build out our portfolios as we began interviewing for internships — and later, jobs — at various fashion brands and magazines.”
2. Did you expect SMUStyle to still have a presence 11 years later?
“Sarah and I always hoped SMUStyle would continue on as a learning tool for students, who were like us, and interested in building careers in magazines and journalism. She and I are very hands-off with the brand now, but we both feel proud to have started something that so many students after us have been able to be involved in and learn from. It also makes me feel incredibly old that 11 years have already passed — and my how much has changed since then. Bloggers and influencers weren’t even a blip of a thing back then!”
3. Did SMUStyle play a role in getting to where you are now?
“SMUStyle absolutely helped in my career path. Not only did it allow me the freedom to expand on the writing and reporting skills already being taught in my journalism classes — but it shifted my frame of mind from print-only to digital. At the time, digital was beginning to play a more enhanced role in all major publishing companies, so I like to think Sarah and I both had the foresight to embrace that. In addition, starting SMUStyle played to both my and Sarah’s entrepreneurial strengths. We both enjoy the work that goes in to creating stories and are deeply passionate about starting things from the ground up — those skills have served me in an invaluable way as I’ve built my career.”
4. How did you get your start at PaperCity Magazine?
“I started my career as an intern at PaperCity the summer going into my junior year of college. The Great Recession was in full swing, and I was grateful to have an internship that, while unpaid, was with a small enough company that allowed me to gain real-life experience. About 10 months later, the assistant editor left her role and the editors were eager to quickly fill the position. I was invited to apply — despite having a year of school to finish — and went through the interview process. In June, I started as assistant editor full time. That year, I worked full time, went to class full time, and somehow still managed to graduate — and make it to a few Boulevards!”
5. What does your average week look like?
“As of last week, I announced my transition from editor in chief of PaperCity Dallas to editor at large. I have accepted a new full-time role as director of editorial for a large national brand. Because I am working remote in Dallas, with travel to New York, my week at a glance is much different than it was when I was full-time in the office at PaperCity. I’m still getting into a routine of working from home — and very much still learning what the day-to-day of my new job will entail! Ask me this question in six months and I’ll have a much better answer!”
6. How has the field of editorial journalism changed since you began? In the past 5 years? Where do you see it going?
“Editorial journalism, particularly as it pertains to lifestyle/luxury/fashion magazines, has changed tremendously — in some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse. The dawn of digital storytelling allows writers, editors, photographers, and creatives to produce and tell stories in a more enhanced way. In many ways, it means stories can be brought to life — from page, to video, to expanded angles online. On the national level, the business of glossy magazines has become much more difficult as large publishing companies struggle to maintain a balance and drive revenue through print, digital, experiential marketing, events, and so on. In that process, I worry that many magazines (whether in an effort to drive clicks, appease advertisers, or work at a much faster pace) have lost their sense of identity and editorial integrity. If you read the book “Vanity Fair Diaries” by the inimitable editor Tina Brown, you’ll get the picture. Resources today are much more limited than they were in the 80s and 90s and I think editors are forced to be much stronger than they ever were before — and there are very few of them that are doing their storied magazines justice.”
7. What do you see for your future career?
“As magazines change, I always knew a time would come that I would want to grow my professional skillset and spend time working on storytelling for a large brand. Of course, there is a big difference between editorializing for a publication and editorializing for a brand. That said, diversifying my experience and growing my connections has always been top of mind. As far as the future of my career goes, I find it absolutely vital — and this goes for anyone in any profession — that you find purpose, passion, and most importantly new challenges and opportunities to be pushed to grow. That’s where I am right now — a new season of change. And I’m thrilled to see what it has in store.”
8. What skills do you think are most important to graduate with if you want a career in journalism or media?
“Common sense. Humility. Strong work ethic. And absolutely no sense of entitlement. The world of journalism and media is a challenging one. If you love what you do and you are willing to put in the years of work when you are first starting out, cream will rise to the top. Often, people make the mistake of going into fashion, media, or magazines because they are driven by ego or vanity. The job is never as glamorous as it appears on the outside: It’s not about getting to go to parties or having access to any perks that come with being an editor. The joy comes from the work and reward of telling important stories. If you don’t have the common sense and work ethic to move through the world of media gracefully and with humility, you will be hard pressed to gain the respect of those in more senior roles than you. You will not be the strongest writer or reporter fresh out of college, but with hard work and a vision that your first several years out of college are a baptism-by-fire learning experience, you will wake up 10 years later suddenly having a larger job and all the skills to grow your career.”
9. What are the biggest challenges when starting in journalism?
“I always say, don’t get into journalism for the big salary or routine, nine-to-five schedule. Starting out, you will not make a large salary and you will be working incredibly hard and incredibly long. Take it in stride — and embrace the fact that you are young and energized to grow. I also think most young editors and writers get a bit shocked when they receive their first edit. My work was torn apart for several years before I developed the skills, voice, and tone that were able to stand on their own with minimal edit. That level of humility can be a tough pill for many to swallow — but it’s important. When I became editor in chief of PaperCity, what I missed most was having a senior editor above me to challenge my work and offer me a solid edit.”
10. How do you differentiate yourself in the world of journalism?
“Just like in life, authenticity is a large differentiator. If you carry yourself always with a relentless sense of authenticity, it translates into your work.”
Thank you so much to Christina on her insight for all students pursuing careers in journalism and media.
Until next time,