As anyone who’s ever watched The Devil Wears Prada knows, the magazine publishing industry can be very glamorous and exciting…but for these reasons, it can also be extremely competitive. This is especially true in Boston, a city that graduates thousands upon thousands of college students each year, but only publishes about five magazines. So how did Jessica Laniewski, the associate editor of what is arguably Boston’s most stylish magazine, land her coveted role? We ask her that and more, below.
YOU’RE AN EDITOR AT ONE OF THE BEST-KNOWN MAGAZINES IN BOSTON. HOW DID YOU LAND THE JOB?
I really wanted it, and when I saw the posting for my original position come onto the Boston Common web site I went after it. I had met Janice O’Leary, the Editor in Chief at the time, nine months before at an event for the Nantucket Wine Festival and we had a blast during dinner. I was working for Cape Cod Magazine at the time and when the job at Boston Common came up I reached out to Janice as I was submitting my resume. Networking is so important. Even if you don’t realize you are networking at the time.
YOU’VE BEEN PROMOTED TWO TIMES IN THE TWO YEARS YOU’VE BEEN AT THE MAGAZINE. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE ABOUT “CLIMBING THE LADDER?”
Hard work! There really is no substitute for it. I worked long hours when I started, not because I was told to but because I love what I am going and was continually learning from our Editor in Chief. Everyone notices when you go the extra mile. Know your city and constantly pitch ideas internally. They might not all work, but you never know when they will inspire another idea. Be honest, and listen as much as you talk. You can learn an extraordinary amount from the people around you.
PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO KNOW THAT IT’S ONLY YOU AND THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF WORKING ON THE EDITORIAL SIDE OF THE MAGAZINE IN BOSTON, WITH SOME SUPPORT FROM A TEAM IN NEW YORK. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOUR WORKLOAD? HOW DO YOU PUT TOGETHER SUCH A GREAT MAGAZINE WITH JUST TWO PEOPLE?
Our team in New York is stellar. I’ve been working with most of them since I started in 2011. We also have a terrific group of local freelancers we rely on, and couldn’t produce the magazine without them. But our fabulous Editor in Chief Lisa Pierpont and I split the work and also attend as many shoots as possible. It takes a fair amount of planning; that is the thing about magazines, if you aren’t brainstorming for the next few issues you are already two steps behind.
WHAT’S BEEN THE COOLEST THING YOU’VE DONE AT THE MAGAZINE SO FAR? ANY PINCH ME MOMENTS?
I interviewed Donnie Wahlberg shortly after I started and he was incredibly nice. My first concert memory is going to see New Kids on the Block with my older sister, and meeting him was my younger self’s dream come true. We shot one of our fashion features overnight across the city. It was a really neat experience to have the city a little bit to ourselves. And the fashion looked ravishing against Boston’s lights. I have had the opportunity to attend events at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum after hours. Once in a while you find yourself alone in one of the galleries and I get a thrill knowing I am the only one staring at that particular Titian painting or Rembrandt self portrait in that very moment. Did I mention I am an art dork?!
YOU GET SOME GREAT CELEBRITIES ON THE COVER OF THE MAGAZINE, AND THEY’RE ALMOST ALWAYS LOCAL. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE COVER STAR?
We’ve had some really great cover stars. I remember Steven Tyler riding into our cover party at the House of Blues on a motorcycle. And John Slattery arrived to the party he was hosting at Smith and Wollensky on the waterfront on a windless 98 degree day in a gorgeous suit and was a great sport about the heat. And Allison Williams who was on our Spring Fashion 2013 cover hosted a party for us at Bond and was incredibly gracious. She stayed until the end of the event and was honestly excited to talk with everyone. Donna Karan came in for a runway show to celebrate her Fall Fashion 2013 cover, but I was on my honeymoon! By all accounts she was a genuinely nice person.
DID YOU GET TO MEET HIM/HER?
I’ve met most of them!
WHAT ABOUT THE STORIES YOU’VE WRITTEN. DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITES?
I wrote a piece about Perkins School for the Blind that I really loved working on. For our current Spring Fashion issue, I wrote a profile on Liz Brunner, who has recently made a career move. She is a total class act and very inspiring. I am always happy anytime I can work with or write about The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. My mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor, and BCRF does amazing work.
BEING A MAGAZINE EDITOR MEANS YOU USUALLY GO TO A LOT OF EVENTS AFTER WORK. HOW MANY DO YOU TYPICALLY ATTEND IN A WEEK? HOW TO YOU KEEP A GOOD WORK/LIFE BALANCE?
I usually attend about three events a week. I got married in September so I am more conscientious now about keeping a good work and life balance. I love doing something spontaneously but for the most part I schedule out my events in advance so that when I start my week I know what and where I will be each night. I’m lucky that my husband can come to some of the events with me. It is always more fun to enjoy them with someone else. Unless we are on deadline, I don’t check work email between Friday night and Sunday afternoon. I like to check my email before I go into the week. No one wants surprises on a Monday morning!
YOU’VE BASICALLY GOT ACCESS TO EVERYTHING THAT’S NEW AND EXCITING IN THE CITY. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO SPEND A SATURDAY NIGHT RIGHT NOW? ANY RESTAURANT OR STORE OPENINGS COMING UP THAT YOU’RE EXCITED FOR?
I love Row 34 and find any excuse I can to get over there. I grew up in Duxbury with a lot of the guys behind Island Creek Oysters so I am a bit biased, but you have to go in for the ceviches and stay for the homemade bucatini. I am thrilled that Hermes is expanding and Bottega Veneta is opening a store at The Heritage on the Garden. I am looking forward to Wink and Nod opening in the South End (my Downton Abbey obsession has only fed my love of the Jazz era) and am excited to try Cambridge’s Alden & Harlow in the coming weeks.
IF YOU COULD WRITE A STORY ABOUT ANYONE, LOCAL OR NOT, WHO WOULD IT BE?
John Krasinski! He is the perfect blend of local guy and celebrity. I was at The 100 Gala last year for MGH (another great event in this city) when he hosted and he was terrific.