Danielle McNally: Founder & Editor-in-Chief, 2007-2008
I have always loved magazines. When I was in middle school and high school, teen magazines were in their heyday. Seventeen, Teen, YM—I read them all. Every caption, every word. I knew long before I arrived to UM that I wanted a career in magazines. One of the things that drew me to Miami over other colleges, was that they had a “magazine track.”
I remember thinking, ‘how cool that I can focus my studies not just on journalism, but magazine journalism.’
However, I realized there was a disconnect: I was studying how to craft content specifically for magazines, yet there was no place for me to do just that. I was writing the most magazine-y stories for The Hurricane that I could, but theater reviews and style advice columns weren’t quite cutting it. I wanted a place to practice the sort of service journalism I hoped to pursue, I wanted space for the lengthy narratives I loved reading in Vanity Fair and Esquire. Other colleges had student magazines, often more than one; it didn’t make sense to me that Miami had one of the best communications programs in the country and no place for students to get experience doing the work they would undertake after graduation.
So I went to Professor Sig Splichal with this problem, and he said “okay, do it.”
(I’m sure there was a lot of haggling with the Dean or other people with the purse strings that occurred outside of my view, but as I remember it now, a decade later, the ease with which I got what I wanted was astonishing. The moral of this story: Ask and ye shall receive.) I started gathering my classmates, meeting at the library to brainstorm sections and coverage areas. Professor Randy Stano — the man, the myth, the legend — was brought on as our advisor, an invaluable resource and guiding light. My friends in the business school were recruited to help sell ads. It was happening.
The hardest part was deciding on a name. I didn’t think it needed to be particularly Miami-y — this wasn’t a publication about campus, but about life beyond campus. And I was adamant that it be gender neutral so that all students knew this was a magazine for them. In the end, I went with “Distraction” because, as I said in my first editor’s letter, that’s what making the magazine was for me, specifically, and that’s one aspect of what magazines should be, generally.
I recall the administration not really liking that name; I’m glad it stuck.
We produced two issues my senior year. Fewer than I’d hoped, but also, before that year, more than anyone had ever imagined. There were ups and downs, late nights, frustrations, real points of pride, and of course, disappointments. A typo on our second cover was gut-wrenching (lesson: copy editors matter!). And I gained skills that I’ve put to use as an editor at Food Network Magazine, Shape, Details, Cosmopolitan, and now, MarieClaire.com. I left Coral Gables grateful that I’d been allowed to create something I loved and hopeful that my peers liked reading it. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I’d be penning my reflections on the whole thing 10 years later, Distraction stronger than ever. To the staff past and present, thank you for embracing my vision as your own. To the faculty, thank you for continuing to see the value in learning how to produce a print magazine. And to all my fellow ‘Canes, thank you for reading.