AARP The Magazine, AARP
St. Louis, MO | Amherst College
Day one: I glanced up to find a hulking, red “A” smack in front of me. This must be the place. I gingerly stepped through a newly polished gold doorframe, and a whoosh of air nearly 40 degrees colder than the outdoors hit me. People, hands teeming with culinary masterpieces from the in-house kitchen, shuffled to touchscreen elevators that would transport them to one of four different 12-level buildings. I shot up six floors, the doors opened, and I saw Sally Field staring at me from an enlarged magazine stand. My supervisor escorted me around the office, introducing me to the staff of seasoned journalists responsible for creating the world’s largest circulation magazine. Days later, editor-in-chief Robert Love, apologizes for missing my arrival. He’d been on vacation. Though he had squeezed in an interview with Helen Mirren while out. I nod understandably as if I, too, spent my leisure time sipping coffee with the silver screen legend.
Such is the flow at AARP The Magazine, which runs independently from, but under the same roof as the colossal lobbying group, AARP. Coverage oscillates between Social Security features and exclusives with 50-plus luminaries like Bob Dylan. The editors have resumes chocked full of positions at places like Rolling Stone, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Reader’s Digest and Playboy. Their tenures at AARP The Magazine are lengthy though; it must be the cafeteria’s Wednesday double feature—a farmer’s market and a homemade sushi stand—that keeps them coming back. And no, I am not the only employee younger than 25. The magazine and organization continually try to bridge the gap between generations. Still, some of the retrospective packages that time-travel to the Vietnam Era and hair metal days could be alienating for some interns. I eat it up, though. I’m an old soul at heart.
I work in the editorial department, creating content for the UpFront page, which highlights entertainment news. I also assist editors with story research, article introductions and quote gathering. Some days are spent delving into the world of high-cost pharmaceuticals and others compiling listicles on the best albums and movies of the 80s. (“Born in the USA” and “Raging Bull” top my personal list, though I’ve been known to shed a tear or 20 during “Purple Rain” and the finale of “E.T.”) I occasionally badger my neighbor, who is on the design team, to show me the intricacies of InDesign and Photoshop and chime in with subpar Spanish on the conversations of Latino content team.
Hannah is an English major who loves everything from The Eagles to Kygo, The Way We Were to Fast and Furious 7, and John Steinbeck to Stephen King. She caught the journalism bug as an intern at The Hill Newspaper last summer and has since worked at a number of collegiate, regional and national publications.
Each week, the three other ASME D.C. interns and I visit publications throughout the capital. We’ve chatted about the unlikely rise of Donald Trump and the effects of media censorship with editors of POLITICO, toured the venerable halls of the National Geographic Society, discussed the creation of web content and pondered the lethal allure of anti-freeze at Slate, and road-tripped with editors from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance to one of the largest printing plants in the east coast. At each magazine, editors and writers share their experience in the industry, simultaneously urging us to run far away from journalism and also expressing their deep enchantment with it.
D.C. does not have the same flashing lights, towering skyscrapers or quantity of songs in its namesake as the Big Apple. I spend time on the lookout for Obama rather than Kanye. And Studio 54 may have a sexier history than the Watergate. Yet, there’s still something special about our country’s capital where century-old history and present-day news stories collide.