For this week’s Meet the Media, we’d like to introduce you to Erin James, editor-in-chief of Sip Publishing. Sip Publishing includes Sip Northwest Magazine, CIDERCRAFT Magazine, Sip’s Wine Guide: British Columbia and Tasting Cider Book.
1. Which of your stories are you most proud of?
I’ve been writing about food, beverage and travel for over a decade now. I think I’ve lost the most sleep over, and then been most proud of, writing profiles. There’s so much pressure to tell someone’s story accurately and through the right lens, with integrity and relevance — and still have it be an intriguing read for the consumer. Late last year, I wrote an article for our Cidercraft magazine on regionality in hard cider, a heated debate of terminology and geography in the industry, and I was fairly happy with the outcome as I felt I touched on many sides and aspects of the topic. Since I’m 80 percent editor, 20 percent writer/freelancer, most of the pieces I’m working on are written by the fabulously talented writers we work with at our magazines. I feel lucky to simply be editing them.
2. What is your favorite thing about your job?
Some might call it micromanaging or neuroticism, but I work pretty closely with our stories from inception to the final page design. I love that I am able to collaborate and brainstorm story concepts with our writers, then take them all the way to the page with our designer, where she masterfully brings them to life. There’s an intimacy to the process that makes it impossible to not be fully vested in what I do. I love it like a parent — sometimes you want to ring it by the neck, but when it comes down to it, you couldn’t be happier or more proud.
What is your interview style?
Most of the articles I write are features in style, so I don’t find myself probing for hard news questions but I do love the opportunity to ask them. I try to be approachable and amiable; I want to be taken seriously to provide fodder for quotes and liked enough for the subject to loosen up, to be honest, real and raw. There’s a fine line between being likable and being professional, so you do have to tread lightly, or at least wisely.
What do you look for in a story?
Our publisher, Kristin Ackerman Bacon, and I always sing Kathie Lee Gifford’s terrible song “Everyone Has a Story,” because we are constantly approached with the line “I/we/they have a great story!” Which is true, everyone does think their story is great, which makes combing through all of these pitches an intensive process. Food and beverage are intimate consumables – items people put in their mouths and (hopefully) enjoy – and the producers of these products are also very deeply devoted to what they are doing. Outside of the who/what/where, the biggest questions for me when I look at pitches revolve around the how and the why – I think that is what readers want more than anything. They want to be compelled and those last two factors are what drive that.
What is your day like at your job?
After three+ cups of coffee, I pore over emails — PR story ideas, writer pitches, general business maintenance — then edit the stories that run on the magazine’s websites — Sip publishes daily, Cidercraft three times per week. From there, I am either writing, editing or managing writers and editors for the rest of the day. I’m making it sound much more drab than it ever is — I write about food, drink and travel, I love what I do!
Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?
I have great admiration for wine critic Eric Asimov and food journalist and author Michael Pollan, but Lettie Teague was the beginning and the end of wine writing for me. In college, I was positive I was going to write film or music reviews for Rolling Stone and found Lettie by way of Peter Travers (RS’ longtime film critic), who had inspired her to write an “intro to wine” book full of idiot-proof fundamentals. It was my first wine book I ever purchased, and my respect and appreciation for Lettie are imprinted in me forever. Outside of food and beverage, I’m a fan of NPR’s Sarah Koenig for her defining podcast skills, I love the crew at TheRinger.com and music/culture journalist/author Chuck Klosterman.
What is your favorite news outlet?
As someone who has anchored their ship to print, I’m drawn to that for my media outlets – and I go classic. The Seattle Times, New York Times, SF Chronicle, The New Yorker, also Seattle’s alt-weeklies, though I find myself reading those mostly online. I’m a longtime subscriber to Food & Wine, and I enjoy clicking through Slate, The Atlantic, and The A.V. Club, more for leisure-reads than news. For food news, I’m on Eater quite a bit, and I’ve been into PUNCH lately since they pulled over wine-writing icon Jon Bonne.
8. Fill in the blank:
- If I am not writing or editing, I am… bragging about my wonderful dog, cooking with my husband, sneaking in a run or a yoga class, savoring a glass of Beaujolais and eating my weight in cheese.
- If I could interview anyone, it would be… Paul McCartney, but maybe 15-20 years ago. The stories he would tell…
- My favorite thing about Seattle is… the water. As a writer, I like to place myself in “creative outlets” when I’m on deadline and we have an office on Lake Union that checks all of those boxes. I’ve lived in this area my whole life, Seattle for the last 11 years, and it’s hard to imagine my life elsewhere. Except for maybe Hawaii or San Sebastian…
9. What is your guilty pleasure?
I’m a little horrified, but I’m willingly putting this in writing… I love way too many teen/college drama shows on the CW network. There’s something about the handsome 30-year-olds playing characters 12 years their younger and the cringingly campy dialogue that hits the spot. Other than that, chocolate and cheese. And I feel zero remorse for indulging on any of these.