Personal Bests

For some reason, a lot of people are curious about what goes on behind the scenes at this magazine: How we put the issue together. How decisions get made. Who brings the best snacks to staff meetings.

I tend to assume the real answers to these questions will bore the pants off most people, so I often get creative with my replies. We call up Osmo Vänskä and ask him what he’d like to see on the cover. We play beer pong before coming up with a lineup of stories each month.

This usually suffices, but sometimes people persist. So, in order to give folks a better sense of what goes on here at Minnesota Monthly—and as a way to introduce and celebrate our “Best of” issue this month—I’ve come up with what I think is an appropriate theme for this column: “The Best of My Office: The Essential Guide to the Editor’s Workspace.” Here goes:

Best Name for the Thing That Hangs in the Place Where One Would Normally Encounter an Office Wall: The Minnesota Monthly HQ is a pretty sleek and contemporary workplace. So contemporary, in fact, that we have these porous metal sheets hanging where an actual wall might be in a normal office. Some staffers actually call this divider a “wall,” others refer to it as the mesh thingy or the border fence. Because I have relatives from Wisconsin, however, I will always think of it as a giant cheese grater.

Best Item the Previous Occupant of My Office Left Behind:
Sure, Post-it notes are useful, but when you need to woo recalcitrant writers, wind down after a long day, or simply give the office plants a nice jolt, nothing beats the bottle of Phillips Union Whiskey I found in one of my cupboards.

Best Story Pitch I Will Never Commission for an Article: We get a lot of story ideas sent to us at the magazine, and we try to be diligent about producing a publication that appeals to a wide variety of readers. Still, there are some ideas that—no matter how well executed—are destined to stay in the “no” pile. Some of these are perennial favorites, such as “Best Prisons” and “A Foodie’s Guide to Fargo.” But for my money, the pinnacle of bad pitches has to be “The Ole Code: Investigating the Secret World of the Sons of Norway.”

Best Procrastination Tool: Any true connoisseur of procrastination knows that the Internet is for amateurs. Asking interns to track down obscure facts about the state’s lumber trade during the 19th century can be entertaining (and edifying), but for sheer challenge and fun, nothing is better than playing a little Whiffleball in the middle of the advertising department. They love it.

Of course, the people, places, and services that made the cut for our real “Best of the Cities” feature, which starts on page 72, went through a much more rigorous process than the selections above. Over the last several months, magazine staffers fanned out across the Twin Cities to unearth the best of what the region has to offer, from cocktails to bagels to running trails. The feature, helmed by managing editor Joel Hoekstra, is one the most ambitious packages we’ve ever produced. It’s an essential, authoritative guide to the Twin Cities, and I’m proud to have it in the magazine. And, if you’re wondering, Osmo likes it too.

Andrew Putz