In The Beginning

Let there be pink. 

When I hear those three words in the headline above, I can’t help but think of the Book of Genesis: “In the beginning, God created Heaven and Earth . . . and God said, let there be light, and there was light.” And while the rational side of my brain acknowledges that the light was no doubt a blinding-bright big-bang flash of light, the more emotional side of me likes to imagine the first light was pink, a calming sunrise sort of glow. 

And since this issue of the magazine is heavily slanted toward the female side of things — an interview with new Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich; a story about Wednesdays Women who tackled racial barriers in the 1960s; a fashion spread featuring the always brilliant stylings of our own Augusta Campbell; and a Susan G. Komen of the Mid-South Race for the Cure tribute piece — pink is the color of the day.

Sitting down to write this column, I scroll back to my own beginning at Contemporary Media. I started working here in 1991, almost exactly — yikes — 20 years ago. I was 22, fresh out of college, with a B.S. in psychology and little more than my love of the written word as qualification for a job at CMi. I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself, but I was eager and hardworking, and after a few months, publisher Ken Neill saw fit to offer me the position of classified advertising manager for our sister publication, the Memphis Flyer, after the woman who had been holding the job became fed up with playing circus master to the wild and wacky cast of characters who were the newspaper’s “personals” advertisers in the early 1990s.

I jumped in with both feet. I loved the job. I loved the people and the pace and the chance to help thousands of Memphians publish their own words in the end pages of our paper. I saw our classifieds as the public’s editorial. Every week, for almost 10 years, I helped some wonderful Memphians compose those pages. And, of course, some of my favorite customers were women: Karen Lebovitz of Otherlands took her business from futons to coffee and more in our pages; the always witty Angela Russell of Underground Art shared her literary talent with our readers via the classifieds; and Michelle Dach of Dach Imports could have taught a master’s class in Twitter with her ability to say so much in so very few words. 

What else was going on in 1991? Google tells me that ’91 was a hot mess. UN forces invaded Iraq. Mikhail Gorbachev resigned and the USSR was dismantled. Apartheid came to an end in South Africa. The first shots were fired in the Balkan War. Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested in Milwaukee. Rodney King was beaten by police in LA. Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive. Nirvana released Nevermind. Al Gore invented the Internet, according to Al Gore. Lots of big stuff, I’m sure. But I was looking for something a little closer to home, more relevant to this month’s issue of Memphis magazine, and frankly, something a little less gloomy — something more pink. Don’t get me wrong. I voted for Al Gore — more than once — and I loved Nevermind, but it’s kind of a downer. Not pink.

Then I found it. Also in 1991: Amy Weirich became a state prosecutor, thus putting her on the path to becoming the first female to hold her current post. And the Susan G. Komen folks distributed the first batch of pink ribbons to recognize breast cancer survivors at the Komen New York City Race for the Cure. Now, that is pink. 

On the sales side of this business, we have always referred to this as the women’s issue, what with Race for the Cure, Women to Watch, and fall fashion appearing like clockwork in every October issue for years. But this is the first October our cohorts on the editorial side officially agreed that this is in fact a Women’s Issue — Amy’s presence pushed it over the top for them, I guess. But the truth is that every issue we produce is a women’s issue: More than half of our readers are women. More than half of our city’s population are women. And more than half of our CMi staff are women. 

We’re very pink, and proud of it.

Penelope Huston Baer

Advertising Director

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