Reflection #4 – Offbeat Magazine

Read below about student Hudson Coley’s awesome experience as an intern at Offbeat Magazine!

Offbeat Magazine, the work site for my 2nd Tier Service Learning, is a cultural review of New Orleans. The monthly publication, located at the corner of Frenchman and Decatur streets, looks at the music, art, food, and other events and organizations that make New Orleans a unique place. As implied by its name, Offbeat focuses on the lesser-known aspects of Crescent City and national culture, especially music. We cover all kinds of music made in New Orleans, from soul, to jazz, to rock, to zydeco and many more. The magazine seeks to document these elements and expose them to the general public.

Offbeat was established in 1988 and has been published almost continuously since then. It was the first magazine to resume publication in the city after Hurricane Katrina scattered the staff and wiped out their printer. It is a free publication that is distributed all throughout the city.

My job at Offbeat is to help the staff in any way that I can. This entails a lot of time-consuming tasks. I transcribe interviews for writers, log old issues of the magazine, work the front desk, and I write the weekly newsletter, The Weekly Beat. In addition to these duties I write concert previews. This is the most interesting part of the job, because these previews usually involve an interview with one of the artists. This is a great opportunity to both hone my skills as a journalist and talk to some cool people, such as the bassist from Girls or the lead singer of Of Montreal. What will happen is a publicist will email my supervisor, Alex Rawls, telling him of an upcoming show and asking if the magazine will do a preview. He then passes these emails along to the interns, and we contact the publicists and set up the interviews. Then we write a piece, talking about the band and integrating content from the interview. The idea is to create a piece that informs the reader of who the band is and what they are about, to let them make an informed decision on whether or not they want to attend the show. Over the years, Offbeat has built up a reputation as a good place for all kinds of bands to get local exposure, and the variety of interview options is a really great opportunity.

To write the Weekly Beat, my supervisor and I sift through the press weekly press releases we are sent and other events happening around the city. We then determine which ones we want to promote and then I go through and compress the longer releases down to a paragraph and expand the ones that are a short tag line. This involves both research and figuring out what information is most essential to the reader. The Weekly Beat is meant to be a quick review of the week’s upcoming events, and does not require much original writing on my part.

Because my supervisor focuses mainly on music writing, I work primarily with music. However, Offbeat looks at many more subjects. The other week I transcribed an interview with John Gros, of Papa Grow’s Funk. He was teaching the interviewer how to cook a roast beef and talking about learning to cook from his grandmother and various musicians. The interview was for a monthly column, “In the Kitchen” that features musicians in the kitchen, teaching recipes and talking food. The column is an example of all the cultural intersection that happens in this city, which Offbeat seeks to highlight. Along with “In the Kitchen,” Offbeat features restaurant reviews and openings, and stories about art shows and galleries.

One of the biggest advantages of working at Offbeat is that I am now so much more aware of everything going on in the city. Before, I really only knew about the stuff that I personally cared about. Now that I am forced to go out of my way and find out about other events and types of music, I find that I am gaining a new appreciation for the city’s cultural diversity. New Orleans is filled with an ever growing, constantly changing population of artists and innovators, and it is my job to try to bring them into the public eye. It is both an exciting and intimidating task. At Offbeat I am both improving my skills as a writer while also learning what it takes to be an effective journalist. And I’m learning about one of the coolest cities in the world in the process. All in all it’s not a bad gig.

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