Editor Emily Long dreamed of creating an Adventist youth culture magazine when she was a teen, 17 years ago. Now she is publishing 71.5, a platform for Adventist young people to talk to each other and choose the conversation, without any preaching by the older folks.
Question: You are the editor of 71.5, an Adventist "youth culture" magazine. Where does the name come from?
Answer: 71.5 comes from Psalms 71:5, which says, “For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence from my youth.” As far as the culture part is concerned, I wanted to make it really clear that this magazine was not written or curated by a bunch of 40+ year olds for young people. The entire premise of the magazine is that it’s just a platform for young people to talk to one another. I try, other than my editor’s letter, to not let my own personal perspective skew the content at all. We’re just here to help people talk to one another.
Your first issue came out two years ago. How many issues have you published so far?
So far we’ve published six issues, with our seventh issue coming out in a couple weeks. Our next issue is a really exciting collaboration with Humans of Adventism, so be on the lookout for that special edition!
How do people read 71.5? Is it digital?
We print a certain amount for our subscribers and for general distribution. We offer single subscriptions and also have reduced bulk rates for churches and schools that want to receive the magazine. But we also sell digital (and hard copies) on our website 715youthmag.com.
What kind of things do you publish? What has been your most popular story so far?
Every issue is themed and has at least three longer features that go along with the theme. But in general we try to just let people voice whatever is in their hearts. We run articles about everything from politics and current events to health and wellness and hot topics like LGBTQ relations within the church.
We also do profiles of young Adventists doing really cool things. One of my favorite articles recently was a story about Nathan DeWild creating a children’s show for the Hope Channel. It’s so awesome to hear these inspiring stories of people using their specific gifts and talents for God.
Tell us how 71.5 got started. What gave you the idea? Who else works on the magazine?
I got the idea for the magazine when I was 17 years old. I was sitting in my guidance counselor’s office, wondering what on earth I was going to do with myself when I went to college, and I happened to look down at her desk and see all these magazines that were meant to inspire people like me to find their purpose. That’s when God gave me the idea.
I wanted to use my artistic talents and become a graphic designer so that I could create a magazine that could utilize people like me: the creatives. I wanted to make something that was modern and designed well that would appeal to the younger generation. So that’s what I did. I went to Southern Adventist University and got a degree in art and graphic design. God put me in the right places to learn the magazine ropes and, 17 years later, I was able to put this magazine together with the help of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference.
I’m basically the point person for the magazine. I put it together and I’m the creative director and editor. But I couldn’t do it without my amazing contributors and all the amazing help I get from the Georgia-Cumberland Conference.
How many readers do you have?
I would say our current circulation is anywhere from 1,000-2,500, but that's not really my area. The conference handles those logistics. It varies based on a few different factors.
Are your readers all in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference?
Most of them are, yes. But we also have a pretty large subscription from one of the conferences in Florida.
How did you get the Georgia-Cumberland Conference to sponsor your idea?
I was working with my church, Hamilton Community, on a smaller scale magazine concept and was trying to find sponsors to potentially supplement our funds. When I contacted the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, Don Keele Jr. saw something in the idea and wanted to make it bigger. I was looking for a $75 donation and ended up getting to create the magazine I had always envisioned. Nothing is too big for God!
Can you tell us more about your background?
I was born in Puerto Rico but I grew up in New York. My father was a pastor while I was growing up, so we moved all over the state. But I would say I’m from Long Island.
I make 71.5 in my off time. I don’t get paid. I’ve been in publishing for about 14 years. I worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press for about seven years. I started off doing page layouts and copy editing. Then I moved to their magazine division. Seven years ago, I moved to CMC Publications where we make 17 magazines a year. I have been able to learn a lot there about the logistics that go into producing magazines. My experience has certainly influenced the way I put 71.5 together. I take a very journalistic approach to the work.
Are you sure you are still young enough to create a magazine for young people?
Well, God chose me to do it, so I'd say that, yes, I'm reasonably sure. (And I don't really think I've ever fully grown up!) But also, as I previously mentioned, I don't curate or create content for the magazine aside from my editor's letter and establishing the theme for each issue. I merely provide a platform for people to speak to one another. That's very important to me because I know that my perspective won't be the same as the perspective that a teenager or younger adult would have.
What do you most like about working on 71.5? What do you find the most challenging?
I really love it all. I feel like it’s what I was put on earth to do. There’s an element of all the things I love in it. I love photography, art, literature, God…it’s all my passions in one. The most challenging thing would be trying to ride the line between authenticity and the scripture.
Like I said before, we try to just give people a platform to speak, but you also have to be really mindful of the scripture. So, while we do want people to be free to speak their minds, we also have a responsibility to represent biblical truth. Finding that line is a little tricky sometimes but, luckily, God is in control and we rarely have that issue.
Who writes for 71.5? How do you choose what topics to cover or what pieces to publish?
We rely on the help of some awesome contributors for our writing pool. We have some people who write for us consistently, like our featured columnists Joy Chikwekwe and Ryan Sinclair, and some that just do an issue here and there. We’re always looking for people who want to write or photograph.
We do set the topics for our features. We’ll usually have an issue theme, for example the Faith Issue, and for our features, the conference and I will come up with some solid, biblical features that have to do with the theme. For everything else, we work with people. I usually reach out and say: What’s a topic that’s been on your heart recently? If it’s a topic that seems meaty enough, I say “go for it!” I’ve never turned anyone down for any topic they’ve wanted to do yet.
What do you see as the role of 71.5? Are you an independent publication and do you feel free to be objective and critical?
The role of 71.5 to me is authenticity and communication. People, especially younger people, don’t want to be told what to talk about, what to learn about, what to think. They want to talk about what’s really going on in the world. So our publication tries to give people the platform to do that, without judgment or censorship.
We’re not independent. But we have been blessed to be a part of a conference that understands our mission of authenticity. Of course, they are very careful (as am I) that we don’t send a non-biblical message. But they do see the value of discussion, even when it’s a controversial topic. The Georgia-Cumberland Conference is very youth oriented. The Holy Spirit is really giving them understanding and using them to reach people.
Who do you see as your competition?
I don’t really see things in terms of competition. We’ve been fortunate enough to have created some partnerships with some other journalistic endeavors, like Humans of Adventism. If we’re doing what we’re doing for Christ, we’re on the same team.
How is 71.5 different than other Adventist youth magazines?
I would say that the difference between this and other Adventist youth magazines is the focus on creativity and expression, as opposed to strict theology. There have been a ton of really great publications, and there continue to be, but 71.5 is more centered around the idea that although we don't all have everything figured out, we can use our talents for evangelistic purposes. Maybe we don't have every right answer, maybe our interpretation of certain scriptures isn't perfect theologically, maybe we're just beginning in our understanding, but we can still make moves towards evangelism. We can still talk about the things that are in our hearts and begin a conversation.
Of course, we know it's very important to get things right and to not propagate any incorrect doctrines — that's why we have our advisory board — but we value the journey, too.
What goals and vision do you have for the magazine?
The first goal is to be totally self-sustaining. Another goal would be to have a broader reach. To achieve those goals, we’re beginning to sell advertising space. We’d also love to up our subscription numbers. At the end of the day, the goal is always for God’s message to reach everyone.
What are you doing to market the magazine? What are you doing to increase circulation?
We’re looking for someone to help us with our social media presence. We’d also love to do more cross-promotion between brands.
What goals do you have for yourself? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’d love to be able to produce this magazine full time. If I had time, I could do so much more! I’d also love to have a dedicated staff that could help with this mission. But God knows what He’s doing. I trust His 10-year plan way more than my own.
Emily Long, age 36, earned a BA in Art and Graphic Design from Southern Adventist University. She works full time at CMC Publications in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Subscribe to 71.5 at 715youthmag.com. Discounted bulk subscriptions are available.
Alita Byrd is interviews editor for Spectrum.
Photos courtesy of Emily Long and 71.5.
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