Elle Eichinger might have the most enviable resume in Chicago. She began her career working at Michigan Avenue Magazine, as the luxury lifestyle publication’s online editor, and serving as a contributing editor to Glossed & Found, one of the city’s most popular blogs. A few years in, she made the jump to SPLASH magazine, the Chicago Sun-Times’ weekly entertainment and lifestyle tabloid, where she’s currently serving as its senior editor.
YOU’RE A SENIOR EDITOR AT SUN TIMES SPLASH. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THE MAGAZINE?
SPLASH is a style and lifestyle magazine that comes in the paper’s Sunday edition. We cover entertainment (a cool celeb on our cover each week), parties, philanthropy and fashion. We also have publication called SplashHome that focuses on real estate and interior design.
WHAT’S A TYPICAL DAY LIKE? WHAT ARE YOU RESPONSIBILITIES?
It’s the cliche thing to say, but every day is truly different. I edit pieces that come in from freelancers and staff writers and lay out various page designs daily, but I’m also out around town, interviewing people for stories, checking out the photo shoots and attending events in the evening, from fashion shows to cocktail or menu tastings.
THE MAGAZINE IS WEEKLY. HOW MANY STORIES DO YOU TYPICALLY WRITE IN A WEEK? HOW DOES THE TEAM COME UP WITH IDEAS?
We have weekly meetings during which the small but mighty editorial team brainstorms subjects and topics for the weeks ahead. We always come up with the best ideas by snowballing each others thoughts. I write one column called “5 Minutes With” that occurs weekly (I interview a different celebrity each week, from Ryan Seacrest to Kristin Cavallari. Favorite to date: William H. Macy.) Then we take turns writing cover stories, so I do one or two each month.
HOW DID YOU LAND YOU JOB?
The publishing world in Chicago is a small one, so making and maintaining connections is important. I knew my current editor from my previous job, and we had stayed in touch.
WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE SPLASH?
Before coming to SPLASH I was the online editor for Michigan Avenue Magazine for just over three years — a job and publication I absolutely loved and which really prepared me for the larger role I have now.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART ABOUT WORKING THERE?
I get to do such cool and fun things in the city, and get to check out spots I maybe wouldn’t be able to otherwise (i.e. a trendy new restaurant). I also meet the coolest people ever, through interviewing them or just being at events — I’ve met some of my closest friends and even my boyfriend at work events. Plus, we have a damn fun team; we’re always laughing and having a great time (except when we aren’t, but that is rare!).
WHAT’S THE MOST CHALLENGING PART?
My previous job was a monthly publication, so when I came to SPLASH, the switch to weekly was a tough one — work needs to get finished on a much quicker timeline. Once you get the hang of it, it’s doable, but there are always things changing at the last minute that we have to accommodate for.
WHAT’S THE COOLEST THING YOU’VE DONE IN YOUR CAREER?
This is going to sound lame to, like, everyone else — because I’ve interviewed such huge celebs others might care more about, like Kerry Washington and Rachel Zoe — but after reading the book Gone Girl a year ago, I started trying to nail down the author, Gillian Flynn, for an interview. I hounded her publicists and they always told me she was too busy and to try later (turns out, she was writing a screenplay). Even after switching jobs, I still tried and a couple months ago, before the movie version came out, I finally succeeded! I got to see the film before it was released, interview one of its biggest stars, Carrie Coon, and then speak with Gillian. Dream come true! (The resulting article is framed on my living room wall in a hopefully rare move of total self-praise.)
PUBLISHING IS A COMPETITIVE INDUSTRY – WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS GIVEN THE EDGE TO SUCCEED IN IT?
Believe it or not, I’ve seen a lot of people fail to succeed in the industry simply because they didn’t work hard enough. You have to really put your all into everything you do and, with an industry SO dependent on deadlines, your work ethic has to be really impeccable. Myself and the editorial team I’m part of all demonstrate that, and (I like to think) it shows.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO GET INTO AN EDITORIAL ROLE?
Get internships! Mine at Michigan Avenue ended up landing me my first real job, and I’ve had interns since that we’ve eventually brought on as members of our team. And work your ass off (see previous answer) to make an impression.
WHAT’S THE BEST CAREER ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED, OR YOUR PERSONAL CAREER PHILOSOPHY?
Best advice: My dad always told me, ‘You don’t get anything you don’t ask for.’ And I’d add to that that you don’t get anything you don’t work for. Knowing that nothing would be handed to me has helped me work harder and not be scared to ask questions (even if that question is, ‘Can I get a raise?’).
Career philosophy: Some version of ‘work hard, play hard.’ I work my ass off, but still prioritize my family, friends, relationships, health — the things that are truly, truly important in life — when need be. And as long as I work hard, it justifies being able to go out in the evenings or on weekends or, if I feel like it, lay around all damn Sunday.