By Amanda Jean Black
Every week Ed interviews magazine editors about what they do and how they got where they are. Join us today as we talk to Morgan McMurrin, the associate editor at tween title, J-14.
What is your career backstory?
As a little girl, I always loved reading magazines. I used to flip through the pages of different publications and imagine what it’d be like being an editor in a big city — the job just seemed like so much fun to me. It wasn’t until I was in college that I got my first taste of what the industry was like when I landed an editorial internship in NYC with Elle.com and Ellegirl.com. My time there was dream-like and taught me so much. After that, I went on to intern as a fashion editor at Time Out New York and then later did some backstage reporting during NYFW.
By the time my senior year rolled around, I’d completed several different internships and had no doubt that the East Coast was where I wanted to be. So I packed up my entire life after graduation and moved from Ohio to NYC without having a job lined up or a permanent place to stay — I just went for it. Looking back, it all seems a bit crazy, but I’m glad I took that chance.
Shortly after I got settled in New York, I accepted a fashion editor position at one of my favorite teen magazines, American Cheerleader. Working there was the best first job experience I could have asked for. I was put in charge of forecasting fashion trends for each issue, scouting models, coming up with photo shoot concepts with our photo director and styling fashion and product spreads. It was a lot of work, and I remember spending many late nights in the office going through merchandise and debating whether my ideas would ever come together or not, but I loved what I did. Plus, thanks to that job, my team and I got to style Kendall Jenner for her first national magazine cover! I mean, seeing how she’s basically taking over the modeling world now, how crazy is that?!
After being at AC for two years, I wanted to change things up, so I took a job as an entertainment editor at JustJared.com and JustJaredJr.com. Working there not only taught me a lot about online publishing, but it made me realize that I really loved writing about pop culture and eventually led me to my current job at J-14 magazine.
Did you major in fashion merchandising with the intent of going into fashion editorial? How did it better prepare you rather than majoring in journalism?
Yeah, that was my original plan. Majoring in fashion made me feel more confident when I was hired for my first job because I had been able to study the business side of the fashion industry before entering it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had a clue what I was doing. I mean, I know people say you should just fake it in those situations, but I don’t think I would have been good at that at all. If I would have studied journalism, I don’t think I would have felt as comfortable as I did when it came to forecasting trends, coming up with seasonal concepts to pitch, creating vision boards, interviewing designers and styling shoots. My fashion education at KSU definitely helped me not have to learn all those things on the spot, which I’m very grateful for.
Even though you were studying in Ohio, you filled your summers with internships at places like Elle.com, Ellegirl.com and Time Out New York; what advice do you have for aspiring editors that are studying outside of New York?
I know that sometimes living in a small town can make you feel like you’re at a disadvantage, but it doesn’t have to be. Just because you go to a school outside of New York, that doesn’t mean you can’t still gain experience in the publishing industry — it just may be a little bit harder. Freelancing or interning for your school’s newspaper, campus magazine or starting your own blog are some ways you can showcase your writing.
You’ve worked for a lot of teen outlets since you graduated. What drew you to that area of publishing?
I’m a kid at heart, so it just seemed like a good fit. There’s just something nice about getting to write about topics that teens deal with like body insecurities, friendship drama and crushes because I’ve been there before, so I can relate. Plus, knowing that something I can write can help someone who’s reading that piece and going through something similar feel better is the best feeling. It’s also exciting getting to interview up-and-coming actors and singers and seeing their careers take off over the years.
What is your job like at J-14?
Each day is different. My co-workers and I have tight deadlines so we’re always working ahead on things. When we’re not writing, we’re talking with publicists, setting up interviews, researching trends, conducting photo shoots, covering red carpets and visiting movie sets so we can gather exclusive content that’ll make our magazine even better. It can be stressful at times, but when you get to hold the finished magazine in your hand, it’s all worth it!
Was your first red carpet like you imagined it’d be?
No, definitely not. It was a lot more intense than I thought it’d be, but to this day red carpets are still something I really enjoy covering. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself when I get to attend them.
What are some of your favorite interviews that have been published while you’ve been at J-14?
I don’t think I can pick just one! Chatting with Lucy Hale about love, heartbreak and real life scary moments was amazing because I’m a huge fan of Pretty Little Liars. I also enjoyed interviewing Selena Gomez about the importance of having a good group of girl friends, talking to One Direction about avoiding drama, bonding over how hard it can be to find self-confidence with Demi Lovato and getting life advice from Channing Tatum. All of those interviews were special to me because they were turned into relatable stories that I know I would have loved reading when I was a teen. I also got to interview a girl who was a former war orphan that later became a professional ballerina — she was probably the most inspiring person I’ve ever interviewed.
Who would you love to interview that you haven’t?
I’d love to interview Hilary Duff and Kermit the Frog one day.
What is your favorite work perk?
I’ve gotten to experience so many unbelievable things over the last few years, but since I’m a huge movie buff, going on set visits are my favorite work perk. I love seeing everything that happens behind-the-scenes and being in that environment.
What is a must-have on the job?
A good attitude. Things can get intense at times because you’re always on tight deadlines and interacting with different publicists about upcoming projects, but being someone people enjoy working with is really important. Sometimes it can even make the difference of whether or not you score an exclusive interview, so you just have to remember to be kind.
What is an industry pet peeve of yours?
When reporters mispronounce a celebrity’s name while they’re interviewing them.
What is some advice you have for others trying to break into the industry?
If you put your heart into your work and treat others the way you want to be treated, it’ll go a long way.