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Citizen Culture seeks next big thing

COM lecturer holds magazine concept contest

As the youngest faculty member at the College of Communication, Jonathon Scott Feit can’t rely on his many years of experience to teach the students in his Magazine Business Development for the 21st Century class. His strategy is much more contemporary: tell them about what happens to him every day as the editor of Citizen Culture, a two-year-old start-up.

“We’re a case study, without a doubt,” says Feit (UNI’03,’04). “We’ve had high highs and low lows and have seen the whole gamut. That’s what I teach.”

Feit founded his magazine in 2003 as a means for young writers and editors to get a start in the business “and prove themselves in a professional way,” he says. Since its launch, the magazine has gone from a print publication to a fully digital (and downloadable) magazine, and has expanded its roster from a small group of BU students and alumni to 23 staff writers, editors, and designers.

Now, having established a solid reputation within the magazine-publishing industry, Citizen Culture is further fulfilling its mission of being a launching pad for newcomers by holding its first Magazine Concept Competition this month. Entrants can submit up to 20 pages of design and content for a new magazine, and the winner’s work will be published in the June issue.

For participants, the contest is a way to showcase their work before an industry audience; for Citizen Culture, Feit says, “we get the pride of knowing we’ve potentially found the next big thing. Since its earliest days, Citizen Culture’s ideological mission has been to discover up-and-coming talent. We want to be that jumping-off point, professionally.”

A panel of industry experts — including executives and editors from Dwell, Nylon, Time Out New York, and Advertising Age, as well as Samir Husni, chair of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi, and Abe Peck, chair of the magazine program at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University — will judge the competition. Entries are due March 15, and submission guidelines are on the magazine’s Web site.

The contest also serves as a breeding ground for Feit’s next planned venture: a business that helps people with ideas for new magazines launch the publication. It’s been partially inspired, he says, by the students he’s taught at COM.

“There are some phenomenal ideas coming out of my course,” he says. “If you coach them, they can really shine.”