Pretty. Ugly.

Once people figure out I’m the editor of Tallahassee Magazine, they usually ask something along the lines of, “Who thinks up the ideas for your stories?” or “Who decides what stories get in the magazine?”
Generally, the answer is me. And me.

Some stories are obvious because of the time of year (Christmas, Valentine’s Day, back to school,) while others are perennial (Best of Tallahassee, Top Singles, Great Getaways, Springtime Tallahassee). But once you schedule all those in, there’s still plenty of room for other topics, and it’s up to me to fill in the blanks.

Sometimes Publisher Brian Rowland and other staff members here make suggestions. I get great ideas from readers who contact me via email or social media — or who I just run into when I’m out and about.
But some ideas percolate and then spring out of my head. (Although having what my life adviser generously calls “focus issues,” I’m afraid some very good ideas have fallen into the abyss.)

Usually, they come to me in one of two ways. First, there will be some issue I’m wrestling with. I figure, if it’s something that piques my interest, other people might be curious too.

This issue’s feature on pageant culture is an example. Many of us got our first glimpse into the world of child beauty pageants 15 years ago when, in the wake of her murder, we saw photos and videos of JonBenet Ramsey vamping it up in heavy makeup and elaborate costumes. Then, in 2009, the TLC network created a sensation with its behind-the-scenes series about “glitz” pageants, “Toddlers & Tiaras.”

Both events evoked commentary — usually ranging from tut-tutting about the costs to accusations of sexualizing children. It’s hard for me to believe any 2-year-old enjoys getting a spray tan or pinning on a wiglet, but is it really all that bad? Are pageant moms ruining their children’s lives or giving them poise and confidence? Is this any better or worse than people who immerse themselves and spend small fortunes in other subcultures, such as historical reenacting or motorcycle riding or travel sports teams?

My second idea generator is when I become aware of a subject — and want to know more. It was the genesis of the road kill feature. My daily commute from my Killearn home takes me down a long stretch of Centerville Road. Invariably, I see one or more dead critters in the road during my drive, usually low-to-the-ground species such as opossums, raccoons, squirrels and armadillos. They’re usually there one day and gone the next and it makes me wonder: Where do they go? Why do some stretches seem to have more dead things than others? And, of course, why do they cross the road?

Also, it seems like I was forever hearing the so-called “turtle tunnel” on U.S. 27 vilified as a waste of $2.5 million in government dollars. Somebody must’ve thought it was a good idea, and I wanted to know why.

Writers Jason Dehart and Amanda Broadfoot have done a very good job of answering my questions. I hope you enjoy their work and that, like me, you’ve learned something along the way.

And if you have a story idea … please, send it my way.

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