Meet Contemporary Media, Inc.: Michael Finger
Meet Michael Finger: Senior Editor, Memphis magazine
1. What does your position entail? I research and write feature stories and also keep my one good eye on all the little cogs that run the wheels in magazine production: editing, proofreading, correcting, writing captions, etc., for each issue.
2. How did you get into this industry? I originally majored in electrical engineering, and then earned a master’s degree with plans to teach English in college somewhere, so obviously this wasn’t my first, second, or even 14th choice. Along the way I’ve held 25 jobs (yes, I kept count) since my parents put me to work in the textile mills at age 5; I helped build the go-kart track at Al’s Golfdom and worked inside the batting range, collecting balls for the pitching machines while batters hit them AT me; sold hundreds of Christmas trees to nitpicky customers in freezing cold; processed tax returns for the IRS in the middle of the night; loaded trucks for UPS in the summer and unloaded trucks for USPS in the winter, among other terrible jobs. I finally got into the writing business as: a staff writer for the Center for Southern Folklore (where we’d venture into the Delta to feature quilters and painters and musicians); technical editor for Bechtel Power Corporation (where I’d write and edit 400-page manuals and proposals for nuclear power plants); director of communications for the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau (where I’d write glowing stories about local tourist attractions and directed all promotional photography for the city); senior account executive at Archer-Malmo Advertising, in charge of publicity for The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Christian Brothers University, Kraft Foods, and other major clients; and lots of freelance projects. ... I’m not bragging. All of this is meant to show that, in my mind, there is no direct “career path” that leads anyone into this crazy profession.
3. What insight can you give someone that might be interested in this industry? Hmmm. Read everything you can, with an eye towards this: How could I have done that better? My whole goal, with anything I write, is to leave the reader thinking: “Wow, I never knew that,” OR “Wow, I remember that!” And the downside: If you like big homes and nice cars, then this isn’t the profession for you. Well, for most people anyway.
4. How long have you worked here? I began freelancing for Memphis magazine waaaaay back in 1983, when I submitted a history story on East End Park after discovering the ruins of the amusement park’s old skating rink behind an apartment complex in Midtown. I contributed many other features over the years, until I was brought aboard in 1991 as senior editor. I joined the staff of the Memphis Flyer at the same time and was named senior editor of the Flyer in 1996 or so. I’ve written cover stories and shorter features for both publications, but lately my time has mainly been spent with the magazine and our relatively new publication, MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.
5. What sets Memphis magazine apart from other publications in the Mid-South of its kind? Years ago our slogan was “We Show You The Town” and I think we’re still pretty good at doing that, and that means the good, the bad, and the ugly — whether it’s a 7,000-word piece on a notorious murder or one of Vance Lauderdale’s weird columns such as “The Goat Gland Doctor.” We cover quite a range, in each and every issue, and it helps that we have a great staff of writers, designers, photographers, and illustrators. As well as kindly overlords.
6. Tell me anything else interesting about yourself. Well, since you asked ... • As a kid, my family had four dogs in a row, each one with the same name: Frisky. I guess we just couldn’t come up with anything else. • I was the spelling bee champion of the entire 4th grade at Sea Isle Elementary School. In the city finals, I misspelled “immediate,” and as I was walking back to my desk in shame, my best friend punched me in the stomach because that meant our class wasn’t going to get ice-cream sandwiches. • I was a Star Scout before deciding (wrongly) that scouting was nerdy. I earned a Reptile Study merit badge; one of the requirements was documenting the life of a reptile for a month, so I kept track of my little pet turtle (his name: Turtle) who was hibernating in his cage for the winter. Sample entry: “Turtle seems to still be hibernating today.” It’s a classic of investigative reporting. • I had five motorcycles before I was 16, until I had a head-on collision with a car that resulted in two major operations. I sued the driver and won a lot of $$$$, but I spent all the money on my so-called friends before I was 18. Are they still my friends today? Nope. Hey, give me back my money! • There’s more, I guess, but I think Reader’s Digest has pretty much covered it.