I am often asked by readers and friends, How do you come up with your themes? and What do they mean?
It is with great pride that I smile, thank them for their question, and dive in. The answer often takes them by surprise, where they discover a layer of insight or thought that they had not considered. I’ve often seen people’s eyes widen with clarity. I mention this not to toot our horn; this is an editorial concept that’s perhaps atypical for your average locally minded free magazine, however it is rooted in a much more basic storytelling arch. Perhaps they’re recognizing not just our spin on the format but their own desire to dive in, re-read a past issue, or approach the next one with new eyes; this is my favorite kind of interaction as an editor, as you could well understand. Our work is about our readers’ interaction with our publication and brand, but on a much bigger, much more important level, with their own lives as citizens here in Buffalo and the Rust Belt.
The answer to their fair question, however, is simple.
We choose four themes at a time, covering a year’s worth of issues, and aim for topics that convey emotional or attitudinal perspective on our human condition. Things like creation (BCM34: Boom), transition (BCM33: Gray), defensiveness (BCM29: The Fight) and secrets and lies (BCM37: Shhh). These are all states of being and thinking that we interact with on a regular basis, that are part of our natural state.
Our angle, as has always been our company’s angle, no matter the format, design or style of the magazine, is to tell a story about our role as citizens here in Buffalo. So how do stories of transition relate to Buffalo at the turn of the 21st century, where an undefined future and a regrettable/rocky past pits us between two distinct poles? How do stories about secrets and lies, the things that hold us back from acknowledging our true purpose and potential, connect us to our tendency to hold shame for our city’s underdog trappings? What is the value in fighting with each other, standing up for ourselves, defending our right to the things we hold near and close?
These are just a few of the questions that come up when we choose topics. We want themes that can be explored abstractly and literally, with room for personal narratives and civic storytelling. Not every story is about life in a post-industrial, Great Lake city, and that’s okay. We trust that you can connect our dots and understand the range of perspective we’re offering. It is ultimate up to you how you determine these exciting, challenging, risky times to be important to you—whetherhyou stand up and defend what’s important to you as a neighbor, whether you seek shade for your comfort, whether you come out from hiding and expose the bitter truth that’s kept you behind, and so on.
We are living in an exciting time right now, this millennial renaissance. There are lots of questions, lots of fears, lots of exclamation points. Our magazine strives to make some sense out of some of this by raising these topics, addressing these themes and having those conversations that push us forward with mindfulness, thought and respect.
As we prepare for the release of BCM36: Shhh, beginning this weekend and throughout the coming weeks, we ask you to consider these many angles on the topic of secrets and lies. In the end, no discussion is worth exploring without truth and honesty at the forefront.
Thanks for letting us have this conversation in print, online, on your coffee tables, at your kitchen table and beyond. This magazine is about your own approach to our evolving times. Our themes are chosen with that in mind. We hope and expect you will continue to engage with it in all the ways you find relevant.