This month’s Behind the Byline subject is Sean Collier, a contributing editor with Pittsburgh Magazine.
Sean gave us an inside look at how Pittsburgh’s most respected lifestyle magazine works and how we can support them. Along these lines, we also talked about how Sean became a writer and some of his favorite hobbies outside of work. And if you think he looks familiar, you might have seen him on stage, television or maybe even at one of the drive-in theaters in the area.
Learn more about Sean below.
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Ross Township and went to college at Penn State. Originally, I was a theater major and later added English.
How did you become a writer?
I kept writing until I became a writer. In high school and college, I thought I wanted to be an actor in the theater business, but during that time, I was never not writing. I started writing for magazines, including Verbicide Magazine, a music and culture magazine based in Boston. I wrote album reviews, I wrote for my high school paper, and I kept writing in college. I was trying a lot of things at the same time, but I was getting the most traction as a writer.
How did you land at Pittsburgh Magazine?
After college, I became a freelance writer and I wrote for a lot of publications, including Pittsburgh Magazine, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh City Paper and Pittsburgh Sports Report. I became full-time with Pittsburgh Magazine in 2011.
As a contributing associate editor, I do a little bit of everything since we’re a mid-sized publication. I spend half my time editing freelancer work and setting up bigger projects and features. The other half I spend writing my own stories for the print magazine and website. Because we’re a general interest magazine, we’re specifically interested in local stories about Pittsburgh.
What is one of your most memorable stories?
I wrote a feature called, “For the Love of the Game,” which was a series of profiles on people who are very passionate and very talented at something that is absolutely not their job and doesn’t pay the bills. I interviewed an improviser, burlesque performer, novelist, professional wrestler and musicians to name a few. I loved talking to those people and writing about these vibrant sub-cultures.
Check out one of the articles here.
How has the pandemic impacted Pittsburgh Magazine?
The media is in a lot of trouble right now. Media companies across the board have been making cuts for years now and the pandemic has only made it worse. These companies were also built on advertising, causing a big money crisis for the media industry.
Simultaneously, there is a lot of distrust and misinformation eroding both people’s faith and understanding of what writers do and what is and is not journalism.
It’s important for the community to not just look at the media as something to utilize, but to support. There’s no guarantee that any media will exist in 5 years. If you value the relationships with media and the role media plays for your business, support them.
How can people support Pittsburgh Magazine?
Subscribe. Subscribe. Subscribe. And share. When you see our content pop on your social media feeds, share it! It helps us grow our readers.
There’s also a return on investment when you advertise. We can tell you who’s reading the magazine, what stories they are looking for and other demographic information. Don’t discount the role of advertising in your media strategy.
Are you still involved with theater?
Yes, my passion project outside of work is the Vigilance Theater Group, which I co-founded and have written a couple plays for. We’re an immersive theater group dedicated to creating intimate, experiential productions. Our first production took place in 2018, and with the pandemic, we’ve had some virtual events this year. It’s my favorite thing to work on.
What else do you like to do for fun?
I’ve always been passionate about movies. I’ve spent my life talking about them and now I love reviewing them as a writer. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always wanted to be at the movies. This year, I’ve been going to the drive-ins three to four times a week. There are actually 10 drive-ins within 50 miles of Pittsburgh. Check out my list here.
What advice do you have for those looking to get coverage in the magazine?
Instead of asking editors to cover a specific company, ask them what types of stories they are working on instead and see if it fits. And keep in mind the print magazine’s production schedule. We assign stories two months in advance and finish the issue a month in advance.
Don’t take it personally if your email or voicemail isn’t returned. We get a flood of messages, no less than 100 a day, which is why having a contact at the publication is infinitely more effective than just sending out a press release. I find press releases are only relevant to writers on specific beats. For example, I write about movies every week, so I keep an eye on movie-related press releases. If I don’t cover it, I delete it in a second.
So, my advice is when you’re pitching a story, know what I cover and tell me why you think it’s a good story for me.
– Robin Rectenwald, WordWrite