Twenty-five years — one quarter of a century — that’s how long Memphis Parent magazine has been serving families in Memphis and the Mid-South. I think that’s an impressive run, don’t you? Especially when you consider how much the media landscape has changed in that time.
In 1989, when we got our start, the World Wide Web had just been invented. We carried around mobile phones the size of a shoe, and most of us still got our news from daily papers, magazines, and the three broadcast networks.
National magazines had long served families with advice on child rearing; after all, Parents magazine was launched in 1926. But niche publications that told local stories and relied on local experts were an idea that was just beginning to take root.
The magazine’s founder, 22-year-old Nell McCorkle (a Hutchison grad), had seen just such a product, Carolina Parent , and it captured her imagination. A Davidson graduate with a degree in journalism, McCorkle thought families in Memphis would benefit from such a paper and so, put her journalistic talents to work.
It’s all about being local
McCorkle drafted a business plan with the help of her father, then began pitching her idea and selling advertising to schools, hospitals, and business owners around the city. Like many entrepreneurs, she started small.
“I was the delivery person, ad salesman, editorial writer, photographer, layout person; I did it all,” McCorkle told us on our 15th anniversary. But soon, she was in the publishing business, proudly producing Memphis Parent six times a year.
Two and a half years later, with her sights set on seminary, McCorkle sold the fledgling publication to MIFA. Ellen (Abbey) Westbrook, then associate executive director over public affairs and fundraising, realized it was just the tool the nonprofit needed to continue their community outreach.
Kim Gaskill, MIFA’s public relations professional, became the magazine’s editor and Sloane Taylor was hired to sell advertising. As a parent with two school-age children, Taylor understood the publication’s mission and would sell for Parent for the next 15 years before passing the baton on to our current advertising manager, Sheryl Butler. Sheryl started selling for Parent in 2007.
When Sandy Koch took over as Parent’s managing editor in 1996, the paper became a monthly and Koch used her years as a foreign correspondent to give the publication more of a news slant. She worked to broaden the magazine’s readership base and become an important voice for parents. “We didn’t do as many birthday party stories and developed instead topics that focused on education, health, and nutrition,” she says.
MIFA produced Memphis Parent until 1999, when it was sold to Contemporary Media. Parent complimented the publishing company’s other niche products: Memphis Flyer , Memphis magazine, and Inside Memphis Business .
a new era at contemporary Media
I took over the helm as editor in July 1999. My son was just starting preschool at the time. With my news background — I covered education in Boston before moving to Memphis — I felt the direction Sandy had taken the magazine fit well with my orientation. I also believed Memphians deserved to receive parenting information that was accurate, interesting, well-written, and reflective of our community.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with many talented writers over the years, including those pictured below, all of whom feel as passionately about parenting as I do. There’s also a host of professionals here at Contemporary Media that manage everything from the social media and marketing of Parent to the design of its pages as well as its timely distribution to Kroger stores and 400 other outlets citywide each month.
Since 1999, we’ve grown bigger, gone full color, added more advertisers, and won more than 50 awards from the Parenting Media Association, our trade organization. We’ve also broadened our editorial scope to cover the wide-ranging topics that affect parents every day. Our hope is that we give you ideas on how to enjoy family time, access the resources we have here in Memphis, and consider new ways of thinking about what it means to be a parent today.
I find the best part of my job is getting a chance to speak with you for stories, or to see the photos you send of your children each week. I know how challenging being a parent can be. So I want to assure you our mission will remain the same, to help you do what you love doing best — raise healthy, happy kids.
Here’s to another 25 years.