Q And A: Mary Helen Tibbs 

Editor of Memphis magazine

Sure, some shy away from their 30th birthday, maybe claiming 29 for an extra year or three. But Memphis magazine, the Flyer's big sister publication, has hit the big three-oh with 55,000 readers, a new art director, and a brand-new look. We sat down with Memphis editor Mary Helen Tibbs to talk about being 30, redesigns, and, of course, Memphis perennial favorite Vance Lauderdale. -- By Mary Cashiola

Flyer: Where is Memphis magazine in terms of its life cycle?

Tibbs: When you compare Memphis at 30 to the national guys, we're positively fetal. But locally -- and this is sort of odd -- we're the elder statesman. I guess you might say we're like your grandfather. But that's assuming that your grandfather can tell you not only the history of Elmwood Cemetery but also the names of all the members of Three 6 Mafia.

What was your staff trying to accomplish with the redesign?

The city has changed a lot, so the magazine that reports on the city also has to change to reflect the times.

I thought we needed a stronger front section, so we created Emphasis. We've added topics that we previously were only able to touch on in special themed issues, such as home and garden and health and fitness.

What was the hardest to change during the redesign?

One of the things you have to be really careful about is not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Just because you're going to sit down and redesign a publication, it's a mistake to think that everything has to go. You have to see what's been working and leave it alone.

One of the things I didn't dream of touching was "Ask Vance." I would be afraid to walk outside if I were to mess with "Vance" in any way.

Because he would beat you up.

In addition to Vance coming after me, his fiercely loyal readers and fans would come after me.

What's your favorite part of the new look?

Seeing the return of civic journalism and opinion pieces. It was something that we had gotten away from a little bit. When we added "The City Magazine" to the cover, it wasn't just a tag for our new logo. It's what we are. Having that voice again was very important to all of us.

How did you pick the anniversary cover?

We thought, Why choose just one? Let's use every cover we've ever done. It's a nod to the past and a look to the future all in one package.

What are the perks of being a big-time magazine editor?

I don't know -- you want me to call one?

No, one of the greatest joys with this job is that the people I work with are absolutely amazing. You couldn't ask for a better group of people to put out a magazine about this city. Everybody's Memphis is different. I have a history buff on staff. I have a sports nut. When you've got a group of people with diverse interests and they all write with passion and knowledge, you have a package that's going to be interesting to a diverse group of people, and that's who our readers are.

At the same time, we want to challenge those readers. We ask ourselves: What do they want to read about? But at the same time, we say: What don't they know they're interested in yet?


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