Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to be part of what I think is one of the coolest things we’ve done at ESPN The Magazine. In conjunction with Pop-Up Magazine, we put on ESPN The Magazine the Live Issue at NYU’s Skirball Center for Performing Arts.
So, what is a live issue? In many ways, it’s exactly what it sounds like. And in others, it is nothing of the sort. One of the writers who attended the event wrote that he expected the curtain to open on a room full of editors and writers busily crafting a magazine the audience would read at the conclusion of the show. Instead, a live magazine–at least as it was envisioned by Pop-Up Mag founders Doug McGray, Derek Fagerstrom and Lauren Smith–is sort of like The Moth meets a Poetry Jam. It’s part spoken word, part performance art and entirely entertaining. This time, the topic was sports and, like a real magazine, the show featured short pieces (many of them very funny and all of them extremely creative–mag editor Neil Janowitz, pictured in the tiny red shorts, was the star of this section) like how-tos up front and longer features toward the end. I penned and performed a how-to on streaking a baseball field that, of course, began with a man covered with only a baseball pennant streaking the stage. (But don’t tell anyone. What happens at Pop-Up is meant to stay at Pop-Up.)
The show was Pop-Up’s first collaboration with a print magazine and while we were not the most likely publication to earn this honor, I am convinced we were the best. The show was everything I think our magazine is when it is at its best: creative, funny, thoughtful, risk-taking and a truly collaborative effort. I left wishing it was something we could do every month. And, because there was no photography or video allowed at the show, or at any Pop-Up event, the only record of what went on that night lives in all of our memories. I think this is both beautiful and a total bummer. But I love the thinking behind it: The media world has become so ultra consumable that you can watch the Thursday-night lineup on Saturday morning from your iPad, iPhone, laptop or iPod while on a flight to Seattle. But in order to have this experience, you must be present, both literally and figuratively, and that’s sort of awesome.
And, since there is nothing to refute this statement, I am happy to report that I was uh-mazing. (My EIC would insert an editor’s note here to inform you that, in reality, I scored an A-. I do not stand still well, thus earning the minus.)
The event actually got a lot of media coverage in the days leading up to it, mainly because many of our media peers were also wondering, “What the heck is a live issue?” Before the show, this piece went up on our new in-house site, which earned me a lot of ribbing. But this piece from Fast Company was my favorite. After the show, a mediabistro reporter penned one of the few post-event stories and even took a few guerilla snaps to include with his story. I wrote about the night for our internal ESPN blog HERE. (And don’t ask me why every sentence is broken out into its own paragraph. It bothers me, too!)
At the end of the show, our EIC, Gary Belsky, told the audience this show was our thank-you to the city of New York for being a wonderful place in which to make a magazine for nearly 15 years. We are moving our mag HQ to ESPN’s HQ in Bristol, CT, in June and much of our staff, including Gary, is not making the move. I think this was quite a fitting farewell.