Blogger Spotlight: Jessica Klinner (Highlight Magazine)

It has been way too long since we updated our Blogger Spotlight series, but whatever delays have come up in recent months end today. We have a string of interviews with the next generation of music writing leaders to share in the coming weeks, and we think among them will be one or two people whose work you soon come to depend on in order to know everything great in the world of entertainment. We only promote the sites and people we believe in, so you can rest assured that if you’re learning of them here on Haulix Daily then there is something to their work worth reading. We get the future we support, and this is our way of hoping to influence a positive change in how we discuss music. Enjoy.

Jessica Klinner has been building her reputation in the worlds of alternative music and journalism for several years now, but 2016 has found her coming of age in a big way. After taking lead of Highlight Magazine earlier in the year Jessica has continue to carve a path for herself in this industry that has quickly established her as one of the more knowledge and intelligent voices found within the world where Warped Tour mainstays and pop-rock newcomers collide. We turn to Jessica’s work whenever we need to find the next band who will remind us of the positive power music can wield, but also to learn about the young writers she has chosen to take under her wing. Few websites have a contributing staff as talented and driven as Highlight, and Jessica’s work behind-the-scenes is partly responsible for that. Here, in a rare discussion about her journey, Jessica tells us how she made it this far, and offer a quick tease as to where she may be headed in the future.

Haulix: Hello, Jessica. How are you doing today? Is it as hot there as it is here in Minneapolis?

Jessica: I’m doing great! I don’t know how hot it’s been in Minneapolis, but it feels like Satan’s armpit here in central Alabama! The humidity is absolutely stifling. Hopefully you’re not experiencing heat to that awful of a degree!

H: You have a long history with Highlight Magazine. Can you tell us how you first learned of the site, and when you initially joined the team?

J: I’ve been involved with Highlight since the very beginning. I was brought on as a writer before the first issue launched in April of 2012. I had been following co-founder Ashley Osborn on Tumblr because I was a fan of her photography. She posted that she was starting an online magazine and needed writers and photographers to join the team. I had just finished my first semester of college and had no clue what I wanted to do with my English degree at the end of my undergraduate career. At the time, I had dreams of becoming a photographer, but didn’t think I was anywhere near good enough to shoot shows for an outlet. Instead, I submitted an essay I wrote for a college scholarship (because it was the only writing sample I had up to that point) and got an email about a month later asking me to join the writing team. They must have not had very many writers apply because I’m pretty sure that essay was terrible haha!

H: You’re a great writer, so I imagine you wouldn’t have much trouble finding a place willing to share your work. What made Highlight the place for you?

J: Thank you! At the time that I joined Highlight, no content had even been published on the site and no issues had been released so I wasn’t sure what I was getting into–I just knew that I wanted to write. Since the beginning, Highlight has been based around positivity and highlighting the genuine artists in the music industry. That was set in place when I joined the team and I loved that concept. Throughout my time at Highlight, that focus has become even more important to me because of how negative the industry can be. I also just loved the community surrounding Highlight. We were all just a bunch of kids working on a passion project. So many of our contributors have gone on to do amazing things in the industry.

H: You’re now at the helm of the site. When did that happen, and how?

J: I took over the site in April of this year. Jenn Stookey (former editor in chief) and Cara Bahniuk (co-founder and art director) had been discussing the possibility of stopping the monthly issues. They approached me to see if I was up for taking over the site because they didn’t want Highlight to end completely. I had been serving as managing editor for the magazine for over a year and was more than ready and willing to take over.

H: For those who have never run a site before, can you give us a rundown of your duties and responsibilities?

J: Absolutely! I spend most of the day replying to emails and sending out pitches for future features. This is probably my favorite thing to do because I love connecting with people in the music industry and discovering new artists/bands. All this is done between juggling my real job functions at an 8-5. When I get home, I normally answer more emails and schedule posts for the next day. I also edit through all the posts, set up photo shoots, request photo passes for our photographers, and many more things I’m currently forgetting about.

H: How would you describe Highlight Magazine to someone who has never heard of it before?

J: Well first and foremost we are a website focused on positivity and highlighting the genuine artists in the industry. When Highlight first began, we were mainly focused on the Warped Tour scene, but as editors have changed, we have grown outside of that and now cover a wide variety of genres. We LOVE featuring up-and-coming acts and running fun features. We aren’t so much focused on news posts as we are presenting quality content to our readers.

H: Now that you no longer publish a digital monthly magazine, what are the main draws of the site that separate Highlight from your competition?

J: When we were putting out our monthly issues, we used all in-house photographers for every single feature that we did. There were exceptions at times because of scheduling conflicts and other complications, but I’d say out of the 50 issues we produced, 98% of the photographs were taken by our staff photographers. When we moved to just a website, I was nervous that we would lose that. I wanted to still be able to give our photographers the chance to do photo shoots with bands, but didn’t know if publicists would be up for it since we were no longer doing the issues. Luckily because of the history we have, our photographers have still been able to do photo shoots with bands.

Also we really try to feature all different types of artists. We want to expose our readers to artists and bands who love what they do. You won’t find us featuring a band that has a bad reputation. We really want to give credit where credit is due. We don’t post as much news as I’d like, but I’m really proud of the content that is posted on the site every day.

H: Looking toward the future, where do you see Highlight Magazine in a year from now? Two years?

J: Before the end of this year, I want to go live with a brand new website. We are in desperate need of a digital face lift at Highlight. Beyond that, I would love for us to be able to get to a point where we can pay our contributors. It’s something we’ve been trying to work out for years, but just haven’t been able to make it happen yet. And in a dream world, I would love to go back to making monthly issues and get Highlight in print. That’s the ultimate goal.

H: What is one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were just getting started in music writing?

J: It’s not as glamorous as you think. I was drawn to music writing because I read Alternative Press religiously and looked up to the editors and writers who were on staff at the time. But as I got more and more involved in the industry, I started to see through the facade and realized that everything is not as it seems. The bands you look up to aren’t always the nicest and people are often more concerned about money and sales than featuring bands that deserve recognition.

H: If the site disappears tomorrow (and we hope it doesn’t), what would be your favorite memory from the you spent working on it?

J: There’s been so many, but I think my favorite memory would be just getting to know all of the contributors. I’ve made some really great friends through Highlight, and I get to visit with many of them on a regular basis and meet new ones whenever I travel. I wouldn’t be who I am without Highlight, and I’m so thankful to Jenn and Cara for giving me a shot at running the site 🙂

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.