Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jesse Pearson: "We Strive to be as Inclusive as Possible."

A GOOD MAGAZINE represents the editor, Vice magazine editor Jesse Pearson said in class yesterday.

"The mag needs to be about my curiosity," said the Levittown native who has lead the magazine since 2003.

This year, Vice did a photo spread involving bears (burly gay dudes) dressed as vikings. Pearson assigned a gay pornographer to do a Q&A with Karl Lagerfeld. That same issue features a fashion spread with models in caskets, looking like they're dead.

"It's just something I always wanted to do," Pearson said. "Models lead these really unhealthy lifestyles."

Actually, he said he always wanted to dress up actual dead people and photograph them. He probably could have done that. He has no editorial oversight whatsoever, he said.

Here are a few other things he said that stood out for me:

• The monthly magazine is free, so it is advertiser funded. But the advertisers have no influence on the content of the mag (Dickies did pull their ads after a male unit was displayed in all it's glory in the mag).

• A revealed testicle in a photo in the bear shoot had to be discussed with the publisher. It ran in the mag.
• There is occasional "branded content" but that is not usually handled by the small editorial team. "It makes me uncomfortable," Pearson said.
• He doesn't consider other mags to be competition because Vice is free.
• Since the mag is distributed for free, he really doesn't know who is the audience. "Doing this mag is like shooting into a vacuum," he said.
• His 88-year old grandmother reads Vice on her iPad.

• Every issue of the magazine has a theme, like catastrophe, Iraq, fashion, Appalachia, sellouts, etc.
• There are only four staffers on the US edition. But they have loads of freelance contributors, and there are more than 25 offices/ editions (each with their own staff) around the world.
• The contributors tend to have a connection to Pearson, and most have a similar ideology.
• He respects Jackass. "I think it's brilliant, like Vaudeville," he said.
• If Vice was a television talk show, it would be like Dick Cavett.
• He has no sell lines on the cover of the mag because he doesn't have to worry about newsstand sales. "I don't know who would do sell lines if they didn't have to," he said.

• Vice is not a hipster mag, nor do they claim set the standards for what is deemed "cool." Pearson said, "We strive to be as inclusive as possible."
• He is planning to step down from Vice after the next issue. He wants to work on projects beyond the one-month-at-a-time pace, maybe books and freelance stuff.
• "I love this city more than New York," he said of Philadelphia.

What stood out for you?


Tracy L. Kirkendall said...

Hmmmm...first of all, I have to say this speaking session was a bit of a flop for me. I absolutely hated the Q&A interview style with the other professor. I also think it was a mistake for Pearson to let it happen that way. First of all, it was boring. Secondly, we only heard about what the professor asking the questions wanted us to hear. It would have been more lively and interesting if Pearson would have just spoke to us without the direction of someone else. That said, there were things I liked and things I did not. The overall concept of the magazine is interesting. I love the models in caskets. I feel that a lot of people probably don't understand the magazine, as evident by the NY Times slamming it for promoting trailer trash. I have to say the only thing I don't like about the magazine is the fact that it's free. So sue me..I'm a want something you BUY it! PERIOD. There is this "free" trend going on right now, hell Chris Anderson even wrote about the whole concept of free in our culture. Frankly, it scares me. You can "blah, blah, blah" all day and say "we don't promote ads." There are two consequences to free. One, we eventually want everything for free. Free is great, but it doesn't drive an economy. Second, free is the first crack in the wall between the writing and the business. Say what you will, that's how I feel.

Ali Watkins said...

The whole thing was a little more informal than I would've preferred. I don't know if the Q&A thing was planned on beforehand...I thought it might've been a cover for his "I didn't really prepare anything" comment. Maybe that put a bad taste in my mouth to begin with- I feel like, when you're invited somewhere to talk a out your successes, you should try and have at least a little something put together. But I guess his approach is reflective of the attitude of his magazine- go with the flow. Indulge your gut and just do what you want (hello, bowl of dildos). Overall, the interview was interesting simply because Vice seems so interesting. It was enlightening to hear about some of the brainpower behind it.

Mark Longacre said...

I really didn't like the speaker. He didn't tell us how he came into his position. He didn't tell us anything about the industry, like Annette Hall did. His Q&A session seemed like it was something to do because he didn't have anything else prepared. I can understand a Q&A session if its a small class, but he's coming into a lecture hall. He should have had something prepared to talk about. More importantly, if he wanted it to be a Q&A, the students should have been asking. I'm not prude, but I don't feel its necessary to talk about bears and vikings the entire time. I don't feel I got any useful information from the speaker.

Kevin S. said...

Hmm. I dug Pearson a lot. He seemed like a guy who is still actively trying to cope with success that he really didn't see coming. Beforehand I thought I was going to have to deal with a smug hipster explaining the inner workings of his hipster magazine, but it tuned out that it wasn't like that at all. Pearson was a good enough speaker that I briefly checked out if Vice was hiring any writers. Although the Q&A set up seemed a little haphazard, it was essentially the only way to go about it because the class just sat there the whole time uninterested. I think three or four people actually asked questions.

Camille Mola said...

I have to agree with many of the other comments posted on this blog about the discussion. I did find it, as one of my friends put it, "very dry". I liked Pearson, but he seemed lack the passion and and fire that I would have liked to see from someone who is supposedly very proud of their magazine. Maybe it's just his hipster attitude. Many of the pictures featured in the magazine caught my attention and because of these pictures I would like to check out this magazine more.

Kayla said...

I have to disagree with the majority of these comments. I think he gave a lot of information about what he does and how he does it, which is what we're supposed to be learning about the business. I liked the other speakers and how they had planned speeches, and it made them seem really professional. However, Jesse Pearson's attitude made me feel like we were all just hanging out with him, which I liked. He was very open and different. It doesn't necessarily make him boring and dry. It's just who he is, he's not trying to be something he's not, and that's what he reflects in the magazine.

Shannon Taylor said...

I disagree with most of the comments. I thought it was great. I thought the informality offered comfort. School is so by the book, and he was clearly not. I loved the magazine. I absolutely loved loved LOVED the photography - the colors, layout, was all very beautiful. I would like to talk to him individually and get more in depth about the magazine and him. I thought he was very chill; overall I really enjoyed it.

Chelsea Murray said...

I was kind of divided when I left class yesterday, but the more I thought about Jesse and Vice magazine, the more I came to respect both. Sure, he seemed kind of pretentious at times (the whole Jackass-was-cool-before-it-became-popular thing), but other than that I thought he was pretty informative. I think that Vice is a magazine for young people who actually think about issues and ideas, but I disagree that the magazine is for anyone. My parent's would probably not like it.

jeanette vega said...

he was cool as hell but I would have liked more information also. It's like he was too laid back, which is weird because you would think a man in his position would be more passionate, enthused, and lively.

Emily Damon said...

I really enjoyed having Jesse Pearson in class yesterday. Vice Magazine seems awesome; an ideal dream job for me in the future. The magazine's focus is so intriguing, exciting, bizarre, brilliant. I really want further details on how I can be involved in this magazine/company. I saw on their site internships start at 20 years old which is a bummer but I'll impatiently wait. I love Vice.

Hannah Tom said...

I thought it was really refreshing to hear from someone working in an industry that doesn't base his work on how much money he can make in the long run. It's good to know that there are still people out there who see the world as the most interesting place in the world and simply want to expose these underground stories and not just to a niche audience.
I was on South Street yesterday on the way to work and I tried to find Vice Mag but the record store that formally carried it said they haven't had it in a while. So fuck it, I think I'll just subscribe.

Hannah Eshleman said...

Though I did think he seemed a bit unprepared, I thought the lecture was very interesting and was probably better than it would have been had he prepared a long talk about his work. His informal Q&A was entertaining and it provided a seemingly cozy atmosphere for us to be able to hear his thoughts on his magazine overall as well as a few specific stories in Vice. Just listening to him talk and hearing his down-to-earth enthusiasm was rather inspiring and proof that journalism isn't a boring, mundane job, but rather a job that keeps you on your toes with its constant changes and new experiences.

Lauren Arute said...

Before Vice magazine had been mentioned in class, I'd heard of it before but never actually looked at a copy or knew what it was all about. I loved the articles that were brought up during the presentation, especially the models in caskets one. The originality of the content is really interesting to me as well. How many magazines can say they are completely one of a kind? As far as the speaker, however, I thought it was pretty boring. I had really high hopes considering the other speakers we've had set the bar pretty high. I was expecting him to be a very passionate person, but he seemed bored and monotone almost, and as a result, it seemed like a lot of people, not just myself, were bored too. I feel like a lot of things that should have been talked about, weren't - like how he became the editor of Vice or more about the magazine industry.

Brenna Dinon said...

I have to agree with many of the previous comments. I really did not like the one professor navigating most of the Q&A. Though, I think the professor was trying to keep things moving. I would have liked to have seen Mr. Pearson a little more prepared to share what his magazine was all about. The magazine itself is fantastic and I like the ideas that he presented in them. I just wish he would have carried himself a little more professionally. (Kind of a let down after Mr. Zumoff's presentation).

Sarah Froehlich-Hull said...

Like many others have said, I feel like Mr. Pearson was extremely unprepared and feel a little insulted. He is coming to talk to roughly 300 journalism students who want to end their day by learning something new from someone who is a success in the business. I am especially interested in the magazine industry and I think VICE is a fantastic magazine. Since the mag is so full of life, I expected him to be as well. I felt the Q&A was slightly awkward and I wish Mr. Pearson had chosen to spoke directly to us. In the future I would love to learn about his process of making an issue. I would've loved to hear how his ideas form and come to life.

Nia Prater said...

I think I would've enjoyed Pearson more if he spoke directly to the class like our other speakers did. Having the professor mediate made me feel like I was watching a really uninteresting episode of Inside the Actor's Studio. Like, I'm not sure if Pearson asked for his presentation to be this way because he was completely unprepared or if the professor really wanted to be James Lipton for a day but regardless it was a little disappointing. Luckily Vice itself is an interesting topic so that saved it in my opinion. It definitely made me interested in the magazine.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say this, but he completely lost me when he started off his speech to a huge lecture at Temple University by saying "well I didn't really prepare anything, I was just expecting some Q&A". After that, I felt completely isolated from the converstion. He wasn't talking directly at us, but rather to Professor Stains, which made me feel shut off. I got a slight grasp on what Vice was about and how he got to where he was (since he briefly discussed that), but other than that, I felt as though he discussed topics and events that had absolutely no meaning or relevance to me and my life, which created a lot of confusion for me. Needless to say, I didn't get much out of it. Again, I felt shut off and not really included as much as I did with the other speakers. This was definitely a flatlining lecture after someone as energetic and involved as Marc Zumoff.

Haley Kmetz said...

I agree with several of my classmates who felt that this speaker did not live up to the hype. The presentation by Marc Zumoff was a tough act to follow, but Jesse Pearson did not even attempt to awe us. His story of how he is not censored in Vice was interesting, but I agree that the professor's interview style was awkward to watch. The whole switching of the chairs and positions of the interviewers in the beginning was kind of funny, though.

Lauren Bateman said...

To me, the concept of VICE is great. It's definitely the kind of magazine where I'd finish reading one issue and wouldn't be able to wait for the next one to come out. Who doesn't love looking at intriguing images and reading crazy articles? That being said, I have some different feelings about Pearson himself. Throughout the presentation, I couldn't get over his demeanor. Though he said VICE tries to be "as inclusive as possible," I got the feeling that he thinks of himself in a very high regard. I respect him for having achieved so much success at a fairly young age, but I think that he needs a lesson in humility. When class ended and we had a chance to come up to him for further discussion, I felt no desire to do so. The way he seemed to give orders to Professor Miller to show certain images, his comments on how the projector didn't do his magazine justice, his lack of preparedness, his body language overall, etc. all made him seem extremely unapproachable. In comparing his presentation to those of John-Hall and Zumoff, Pearson's definitely was my least favorite.

Geo said...

FYI ... when people visit the class, I never ask them to prepare anything. Having them speak before 300 people is already asking a lot (especially when they aren't getting paid, and they aren't professional public speakers). That's why we do the general Q&A format where you guys are supposed to ask questions.

FYI, part II ... rather than thinking about the format, focus on the content of the discussion. What did you think about what Jesse Pearson said about life at the magazine?

- George
(the teacher who should have allowed more time for student questions ... sorry)

Brandon Baker said...

I was left slightly puzzled by the awkward format of the presentation, but in retrospect; I trust that the head of the magazine sequence here at Temple was wise enough to ask questions relevant to students - and I believe he did just that.

As far as the content itself goes, I was quite impressed by Pearson's accomplishments. Some people I spoke with after class commented on how he had an "arrogant" or "cocky" attitude, and if I'm being honest, I'd have to agree. What I don't agree with, is the idea that this is at all a bad thing. When you're an editor of a magazine taking on a firm leadership role, it's important to have confidence in what you're doing. I would hate to have an editor that second-guessed himself/herself on a constant basis. I also admired that he has made a conscious decision to keep Vice a free magazine, despite obvious (even if unmentioned) pressure to charge for the magazine in an economic climate that isn't exactly welcoming to the print format. I believe he may have rejuvenated some of my interest in magazines.

Alison Curran said...

This was the only speaker who did not have my full attention throughout his Q&A session. There was no presence with him. He just sat up there and said whatever came into his head. There was no thought process for his answers.

He spoke very monotone and was not enthusiastic about his work. He was being inquired about pieces that he did and he basically answered with- because i wanted to do it.

Marc Zumoff was very excited and interactive with his audience. He asked us questions and got us involved. Jesse just answered the questions that were asked by the proctor.

Eleana Wehr said...

I personally didn't like the Q&A interview style. I felt that he was too nonchalant about the whole thing. he just seemed like he wasn't prepared and I didn't feel like he gave enough background on the magazine and career. I also didn't really understand the fact that he is leaving the magazine if its so "great". It was interesting to see some stories and hear some discussion on them considering it was my first time hearing about the magazine.

Giulia Valtieri said...

I found it funny that he claims not to know who is audience is, but the primary location where the magazine is distributed is American Apparel, a hipster's paradise. Also he seemed to think to highly of himself and thinks they cannot be compared to other "crap" like "Nylon magazine" when they seem very similar to me, besides the nudity and controversy. If the magazine tries to be inclusive, the editor should be a bit more approachable. And who respects jackass?