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Go-getters scramble for jobs in dwindling magazine market

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Blaire Briody, an intern at Cosmopolitan magazine, poses at the Hearst Corporation headquarters in New York. (Reuven Fenton/CNS)

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Magazines published by Hearst Corporation are on display at the Hearst headquarters in New York. (Reuven Fenton/CNS)

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Magazines published by Hearst Corporation are on display at the Hearst headquarters in New York. (Reuven Fenton/CNS)

Rachel Sturtz fell in love with writing as a student at University of Michigan. After moving to New York, she landed her dream job last fall as an editorial assistant at Fitness magazine. To get there, she had already had 30 stories published in various publications, completed an internship at Esquire magazine and managed to arrange a meeting with the editor in chief of Fitness.

Marissa Adler was an intern at the Miami Herald and W magazine while an undergraduate at Emory University. She moved to New York thinking she’d be a shoo-in for at least an entry-level magazine job, but she’s working at an advertising agency and still waiting for her big break.

Blaire Briody moved to New York from California last year and works as an unpaid intern at Cosmopolitan magazine. She hopes to become a magazine feature writer, but for now she lives on the $40 she makes interning at another publication one day a week, and the money she makes at a weekend job as a restaurant hostess.

“How many internships can you have?” Briody asked. “If you can hold out more than everyone else, hopefully you’ll make it.”

College graduates are giving it all they’ve got to land jobs at magazines, but most major publications face dwindling subscriptions and have been forced to shrink their staffs.

When an editorial assistant job at CosmoGIRL! was recently posted online, about 300 people sent in their resumes, said Chandra Czape Turner, executive editor at the magazine.

“Because there are so many applications for jobs, I have amazingly talented people (applying to work here) and amazingly talented people in my niche,” Turner said. “I’m going to hire those people.”

On Jan. 18, Time Inc. announced it would cut 289 magazine staffers; Newsweek currently has about half the employees it did in 1983.

But those numbers don’t seem to discourage magazine job seekers, who remain as dogged as ever.

“This generation doesn’t want to fit in with corporate media,” said Robert S. Boynton, director of the magazine writing program at New York University. “They want to take an activist approach.”

Each year at NYU, a consistently strong number of students hope to become magazine writers. The same is true at other journalism schools, including the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where between half and two-thirds of the students concentrated on magazine writing in 2006. With competition as high as it is, some are willing to suffer to fulfill their dreams.

Briody, 22, who lives in Manhattan, works as an intern five days a week. She manages to live on $40 a week, plus the money from her weekend job as a hostess, by being the designated cook in an apartment she shares with her boyfriend and another roommate.

“I worked out a deal with my roommates,” she said. “I’m cooking the meals, they’re paying for the food.”

For her, the draw of magazines is that they allow writers to “figure out their voices,” whereas she finds newspaper-style writing to be tedious.

“Being poor in New York is always fun,” Briody said sarcastically.

Some people find work in other fields while searching for their dream jobs.

Adler, 22, who works at an advertising agency, dreamed of becoming a creative director at a fashion magazine when she moved from Miami to New York last summer.

She thought that with her internship experience, not to mention having been the editor of her high school newspaper, she would be an ideal candidate for an entry-level magazine job.

“I’ve always loved magazines, I’ve always loved writing,” she said.

Adler landed interviews at major fashion magazines, but she was disappointed that none of them offered her an editorial job.

“If they always say, ‘We need someone with experience,’ how do you get experience if no one will hire you without it?” Adler said.

Sturtz, 25, who was hired at Fitness in November, says the key to landing a job is to present oneself as a specialist; the fact that she ran track and cross country at University of Michigan made her a perfect candidate for Fitness. And it didn’t hurt that she had previously met the editor in chief of the magazine.

“If you know someone in the magazine you’ll be ahead of the game when you send your resume out,” she said.

Sturtz favors magazines partly because they allow writers time to write lengthy pieces without the constant deadlines of daily newspapers.

As one of the lucky ones who have actually made it onto a magazine staff, she named the one thing that’s essential for any prospective employee: “Confidence, or just fake confidence,” Sturtz said. “Otherwise you’re toast.”

E-mail: rif2104@columbia.edu