The Admirable Chaos of Entertainment Journalism

By James Grottola

I remember thinking, as I walked into the building where Maxim has its offices on the first day of my internship, “I’m going to be able to work with one of the most powerful names in the magazine world behind my back. I’m going to conquer the earth.”

I was abruptly stopped by a door that needed a keycard nobody had ever given me, and I had to email my editor from my phone to let me.

This would become a pretty good metaphor for my experience at Maxim.

To say my experience was poor would be absolutely incorrect, but it wasn’t what I expected at all. Maxim put me on its website staff, instead of letting me work on stories for its magazine as I had hoped. Every day I worked, I scanned Reddit, Facebook Trending, Twitter Moments, Digg and similar sites for stories that would “get a lot of hits.” I would typically pitch entertainment news and fun homemade science-toy videos.

Unfortunately, despite taking angles in my writing to specifically avoid being misogynistic, the sheer nature of writing for the “Maxim Man,” as the ideal reader was called, led to videos and pictures posted with commentary that was much more about male lust than the accomplishments of the women we covered.

What I’ve learned is that you won’t get what you’re expecting in a starting position. As I pitched things like an interview with the metal band that had a higher metacritic score than the new Beyoncé album, being told to continue searching the Internet for another cool video of a car left me a bit dejected.

This hit me the hardest when, through a series of friends I’ve made working in the music industry, I received a Facebook message from Dolly Parton’s press agent that asked me to see whether I could get Maxim to premiere the music video one of her newest artists had made. I had to say no, because I knew such a no name hip-hop performer wouldn’t fly well with my editors.

Three days later, I got the message, “Actually, would you be interested in interviewing Dolly?” Although a disdain for country music is a central factor in my life, I couldn’t pass it up. I excitedly asked my editor, only to be told it wasn’t right for us at the time. I had to regretfully tell her agent I couldn’t do it. I saw the story in Rolling Stone a few weeks later, beautifully written.

Going into the Maxim internship, I wish I had known that sometimes your dreams are just a little too big for the position that you’re going to fill. However, consistently producing up to three stories a day, complete with slight coding of each article’s webpage, was a demanding work regimen that made me a better worker and a faster journalist.

If, for some reason, the opportunity to write for Maxim falls upon you, I would say do it. It’s not just a great name on your résumé but also an incredible talking point at parties. Although you’re not going to be interviewing celebrities, models and tech greats like you think you might be doing, you’re going to get good experience taking a piece of web content and turning it into a more digestible written form.

My summer at Maxim was the most hectic summer job that I’ve ever had, but its chaos wasn’t destructive in nature. The chaos of Maxim is an organized machine that whips a small staff of five or six people into producing over 20 pieces a day to a social-media audience that gives hundreds of thousands of likes and interactions a day.