For this week’s Meet the Media, we’d like you to meet, Rachel Gallaher, a writer for City Arts magazine and editor at GRAY magazine.
1. How did you find yourself as a writer for City Arts magazine and editor at GRAY magazine?
I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer, but for a long time, I was on a more literary track. I majored in creative writing in college and always pictured myself going on to earn an MFA and a place in academia. I graduated from the University of Washington in 2009 when the economy was at its worst and decided that I wasn’t willing to put myself into a massive amount of debt (in hindsight, the best decision I ever made) to study something I could already do really well. After graduation, I cast my net around town looking for a magazine internship figuring that it was a field that would pay me to write, and I landed at the late Seattle Homes & Lifestyles. I interned for a year and then started freelancing for the magazine. When the publication shuttered in 2011 the art director saw a hole in the market and decided to launch a regional design magazine with a group of us from SH&L. I started at GRAY as a freelance contributor and worked my way up the masthead as I became more and more involved in the production processes.
As far as City Arts, that was a cold call on my part. I love theater and dance and was interested in writing about the arts—something I had never done before—so I reached out to the Editor-in-Chief at the time and asked if I could take him out to coffee and chat. He took a chance, gave me an assignment, and eight years later I still write for the magazine.
- Which of your stories are you most proud of?
Ah, this one is so tough because there are different aspects of different stories that I love. If I had to choose just one though, it would be a long-form piece I wrote for GRAY last year called The Graffiti Architect. It looked at the life and career of a very fascinating designer who also happens to be a trained survivalist. I spent hours chatting with him about his experiences. He’s originally from Sweden and at first, it was a bit tough to break through his reserved shell, but once we had spent some time chatting he really opened up. We’ve stayed in touch and still grab coffee whenever I’m visiting Portland.
- What is your favorite thing about your job?
Aside from the fact that I get to tell people’s stories for a living, the best part of what I do is getting to meet those people in the first place. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of individuals I’ve interviewed for stories who went on to become really good friends of mine. I’m also very fortunate to have access to the city’s flourishing art and design scenes. I’ve seen hundreds of shows over the years and am always on the lookout for new companies, choreographers, and performers.
- What is your interview style?
I am a big proponent of in-person interviews, which of course aren’t always possible if a subject is in another city or state. I find that the rapport and connection you get from actually sitting down with someone and having a face-to-face discussion often helps them to relax and encourages more natural conversation.
- What do you look for in a story?
Something new. If there isn’t a new angle to a story then it’s probably not worth telling. The stories that excite me the most are always the ones that seem a little weird or off-kilter at first. The ones that we all start out scratching our heads over because it’s a bit of a puzzle as to how the narrative will unravel. If a story challenges me to stretch my writing style or address areas of knowledge that are new to me, then I know I’m really going to enjoy working on it.
- What is your day like at your job?
One of the things I love about my job is that every single day is different. I start most days in our Georgetown office, but each one includes a different combination of the following: interviewing story subjects (architects, designers, homeowners, furniture makers, etc.), writing and editing stories, visiting designers’ offices and studios, attending photo shoots and events, brainstorming story ideas and issue themes, going to art and exhibition openings, previewing new shops, restaurants and spaces… it’s pretty busy, but it keeps me on my toes.
- Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?
I am absolutely obsessed with long-form journalism. I live and die by The New Yorker. Anyone who can successfully weave together a complicated, detailed long-form piece with multiple sources is a true inspiration to me. Also, journalists with integrity and those who take the extra time to carefully fact check stories. As crazy as it sounds, I’m hearing more and more instances of these practices diminishing.
- What is your favorite news outlet?
I’m a New York Times girl through and through. I don’t have a TV so I get most of my news online.
- Fill in the blank:
- If I am not reporting, I am… playing tennis or reading.
- If I could interview anyone, it would be… Jonathan Franzen or Serena Williams.
- My favorite thing about Seattle is… I’m a third generation Seattleite on both sides of my family so I’m proud to truly be able to call this great city my home. My grandfather helped build the Space Needle, my dad used to manage a local psychedelic rock band, and my mom was the last person out the door when our beloved Frederick and Nelson department store closed. My roots run deep and I love learning more about the city’s history.
- What is your guilty pleasure?