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I started working for SJ Magazine about six years ago as a freelance writer. In 2005, I was hired as its editor, and a few months after that, my husband Joe and I bought the magazine. In a short time, I went from writing articles to assigning and editing them. But more important, I was responsible for paying for them. It was a big change.

It didn’t take long for me to realize the magazine had a powerful voice. People stopped me almost everywhere I went and told me how happy they were with the magazine. They recognized a change since we took over, and they liked it. They quoted lines from our stories, told me they ripped out articles to show others. They even said they were changing something they used to do because of a story they read in the magazine.

At first, it was a little overwhelming. Readers were going to a restaurant because it was named “Best of SJ.” Wives were forcing their husbands to see a doctor because of a health article we published. People were reading – and responding to – what we wrote. That’s quite a responsibility.

So Joe and I sat down and had a valuable discussion – how would we handle this responsibility? We had to consciously decide how to use this powerful voice. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were creating a mission statement.

We came up with three guiding principles:

First, we want to promote Southern New Jersey. That is why you’ll never see us suggest you travel across the bridge to dine or shop or see the arts. We think everything you need is right here – in our community. We live here, as do all of our writers and staff, so we know firsthand the many benefits of SJ.

Second, we want to empower girls. Actually, we don’t want to be a magazine that disempowers girls. As the parents of three daughters, we were keenly aware of the poor media messages directed at girls, and we knew we could do better. That is why you don’t see “hot chicks” on the cover or pages of SJ Magazine. It’s also the reason any contests we run focus on writing or artwork – not physical beauty.

Third, we want to lend a voice to our local nonprofits. I’ve met (and continue to meet) many SJ readers who are helping others. I quickly found that when we wrote about a person or group that was helping others, people would read the article – and join the effort. It was tremendous. That is why we now sponsor one or two nonprofit events each month. We also publish a “Help Out” column, where we list three SJ nonprofits and give brief descriptions on how readers can help.

The magazine has been guided by these principles since our purchase, nearly five years now. They’ve made a difference, and they’ve helped us produce the magazine you’ve come to love.

They’ve also been responsible for two awards I recently received. Last fall, the National Association of Women Business Owners gave me a Glass Ceiling Award as Community Advocate of the Year. And the Girl Scouts of Southern and Central New Jersey has named me a Woman of Distinction for 2010. These two awards honored me – and the magazine – for helping the SJ community and empowering girls. Considering our mission, there is no greater honor. I was humbled and grateful.

Frequently, readers, my staff, and very often my family, remind me of the importance of trying to be a responsible member of the media. If I start to lose sight of that, someone or something always wakes me up.

And thus my column’s title, the title I chose back in 2005 when I became editor: Wide Awake. There’s something to be said for being fully aware – of what’s right, what’s good and what needs to be done. I work at being in that state all the time. For SJ. For my girls. And for the many people who help others.

January 2010
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