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BATTERIES NOT REQUIRED

 

our couples. Four homes. Four feature stories. So clean and even you’d think we set out with this quaditorial approach in mind. And it would have been a good idea, too. That much is obvious now that the last “t” has been crossed and the ink is dry. But it didn’t start out like that.

Building this issue was more of an organic process. The editorial lineup shaped itself, announcing its intention suddenly, in a spontaneous burst: “Hey, buddy. Look at me. Four local couples, each with a house that tells their story. Get it?”

And there it was: a Homes and Gardens issue with skin and blood and soul. Not just bricks and mortar.

Like you, I get forests of throwaway publications in the mail, many of them thick with homes-related nonsense. Perhaps that’s too strong a word—non-sense: of trifling importance or of little or no use. When I’m ready to do some work around the house these advertising vehicles may come in handy. Until then, straight into the recycle bin.

Our top priority here in the editorial department is avoiding the trash heap. We’d like to keep our heads above the egg shells and banana peels, the coffee grinds and junk mail, thank you very much. So we scout for stories that not only match an issue’s theme, but that truly engage Ventana readers.

As much as possible, we eschew cliché. Take Leslie Westbrook’s article on page 20. To be sure, the Kellaways of Ojai are worthy of a feature in a local lifestyle magazine. Roger is “the greatest unknown pianist in jazz,” according to the Wall Street Journal and many in the jazz cognoscenti. His artist wife, Jorjana, is an equally engaging character, known for hosting fabulous fetes at their home.

So what?

We could run a standard profile of the couple. Yes, that’d be fine. Easy. Good enough. But what if, considering this issue’s theme, the Kellaways threw one of their house parties and invited us? Invited Leslie, I should say—and her designated driver. And our photographers, Gary and Pierre Silva, who are a walking party anyway.

Sounds nice on paper. But from my editorial perch I saw a wildfire of red flags flapping in the Ojai Valley. Logistical cat herding. Coordination between too many people. Beyond the hurdles, though, was the prospect of an article considerably more engaging than your typical magazine fodder.

As it turns out, the whole thing went off like smooth jazz. Jorjana confirmed her reputation as a consummate hostess, and the story and photos came in on schedule. Party guests dined and drank and danced. Lampshades stayed on lamps.

Stories like this one—indeed, most of the stories we run in Ventana—are not intended as resource tools. Though you may pick up an idea here and there (I got a couple good ones from the Midtown piece on page 13), we’re not out to teach or preach. And we’re certainly not in the business of breaking news. You want the daily scoop? Go online. It’s all there. Quick bytes. Unconfirmed. Here this second, viral the next, rewritten a minute later.

While the specter of print publication’s looming demise remains a radioactive topic of conversation in journalism circles, magazine readership continues to grow. The reason, I think, is that there’s no hurry to chug this cocktail of entertainment and information. Sip it. Pick it up, put it down. Come back to it next week or next month. Tell your neighbor you saw them on our pages. This isn’t time-sensitive material. It’s a magazine. Batteries not required.

04-01-2011

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