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We are excited to announce that Melissa Howsam, who has been Raleigh Mag’s acting interim editor since January, has joined the team permanently as editor-in-chief! Melissa brings a vibrant energy, vast amount of local knowledge and fresh perspective to the magazine (plus some much-needed organizational and planning skills!), which you may have already noticed in our past few issues. Get to know Melissa here, and check out some of her articles in our April issue (see: Raleigh Magazine’s “20 in Their 20s” and “Flying Fearless”)!
Where are you from and how did you make your way to Raleigh?
I feel like I’ve earned “Raleigh native” status, but my birth certificate would disagree. I was born in ATL (with a brief three-month stay), before spending a decade in the sweltering town of Irmo, SC (a suburb of Columbia). We moved to Raleigh the summer before my sixth-grade year (proud Carroll, Sanderson and NC State alum!) and I’ve been here ever since—sans a three-year stint in Chicago and DC (because magazine dreams) from 2007–2010 before returning home.
How did you get your start in the publishing industry, and where did you work before coming to Raleigh Mag?
While mags were always the dream, Raleigh didn’t really have any… so, while making plans to conquer that ambition, I worked for a local publishing house and other PR/ad/marketing agencies. Post-grad school, I taught writing full-time at NC State and Peace, and then at DePaul in Chicago (while moonlighting as a bartender in Raleigh and Wrigleyville, and as a freelance writer and copy editor). When I moved to DC in 2009, I landed my first in-house magazine post at DC magazine, which was housed under one of the nation’s largest magazine publishers (Modern Luxury Media).
How did your career evolve from there?
I returned to Raleigh in 2010, beginning my decadelong column with the N&O (plus regular contributions to local and national publications) while climbing the ranks at ModLux over time to national senior copy editor (responsible for clean copy in 40-plus city publications, and national content across nearly 100 publications); contributing writer; editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Medicine + Doctors (which I launched with my fab sidekick, Associate Publisher Katie Staak, in 2017); and ultimately national medical editor—through 2019. In tumultuous 2020, I worked for various mags across the country, and served as managing editor for a national publication. To say I couldn’t be more thrilled to finally be where I dreamed—at the helm of a Raleigh publication (and such a brilliantly produced one at that)—would be the understatement of a lifetime.
What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments?
When I lived in DC, I was writing for several local publications to make my way—On Tap magazine being one—and was covering Top Chef alum Spike Mendelsohn (Good Stuff Eatery; We, The Pizza—to name a few). He’d been featured by top reporters from the likes of The New York Times… I was just a no-name writer. But when the story came out, he framed it and hung it on the wall at Good Stuff and told me, despite all the coverage he’d received the world over, this was the best story that had ever been written on him. To my knowledge, it still hangs there. … Pinch me. I’ve spent my career trying to meet and surpass that bar every day—and I forever will.
What makes you most excited about joining the Raleigh Mag team?
Well, for one, I have an incredibly talented and hardworking sidekick, Associate Editor Lauren Kruchten (aka “Crook”); and a trailblazing boss/partner, Publisher Gina Stephens—not to mention a masterful team to boot. With their vision, dedication, edge, experience and insider knowledge, there is no cap to what we can achieve. I mean—just look at Raleigh Mag. I’m so blessed to be working on such a brilliant publication with such a crackerjack team.
What is your vision for the future of Raleigh Mag, and how do you hope to bring it to fruition?
During my tenure at ModLux, many of our print stories were cut to 350–400 words max because “people don’t want to read anymore” (think Twitter culture). But, I strongly believe people will want to read if inspired to. I want to be a part of a magazine that people don’t just look at the pictures in or throw on the coffee table. I want people to read it. I want people to buzz about it. I want our mag to continue to serve the community as the inside voice on what is new, now, next. Never fluff. Never filler. Just consistently smart, fun, edgy, relevant content. Every single piece.
What’s your favorite Raleigh restaurant and/or bar?
Watts & Ward. And for lunch, the Cantina 18 patio has my heart.
Who is your favorite author?
I have two—David Sedaris and Don DeLillo.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to?
Former ModLux Editorial Director Stephanie Davis Smith (she paved the way, pushed me—and taught me women could lead with kindness).
What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m a diehard football fan (Pack and Panthers!), and I’d live at a Carter-Finley tailgate if they’d let me (our tailgate won the tailgate championship the last several years in a row—though no thanks to me, ha). Also, I’m a huge fan of the Caribbean (been to eight islands and counting!), the ocean, concerts, patio drinks, my pup, and hanging with my people.
Give Melissa a follow on Instagram!
Have you seen Melissa’s Editor’s Letter in Raleigh Mag’s April issue yet? (Yes, this is a test.) Notice the text was scrambled?! April Fools’! We’ve got jokes and just wanted to make sure you were reading (And now we know who really reads those letters…)! Check out Melissa’s real Editor’s Letter below!
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