In 1971, I was an adman promoting Northeast Ohio as the “Best Location in the Nation” to grow a business. Part of my job was to see what other cities were doing to promote themselves. Across my desk would come chamber of commerce magazines that were dull and boring — and city magazines from Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston that were bright and sassy.
And Cleveland didn’t have one.
After discussing with my wife, Susan, we decided to start a magazine together, and the next step was to look for investors. Talk about luck. My first call was to Oliver F. Emerson, the printer of my employer’s company magazine. After a luncheon meeting, he said he would talk to some friends and, if they liked the idea, we would have our magazine.
Thirty days later, 22 of Emerson’s friends had become investors. They were united in wanting to make Cleveland a better place to live and work — and believed a lively magazine would change the image of the city as the “mistake on the lake.”
Toward the end of our first year, Lady Luck paid us another visit. Mike Roberts, city editor of The Plain Dealer, agreed to become our editor. Within weeks he was building a staff of writers and artists who would create a publication that Forbes named “one of the 10 best magazines” in the country.
With the help of talented writers such as Ned Whelan, the magazine became known for its profiles of politicians, personalities and mobsters as well as our coverage of the suburbs, restaurant reviews and annual most interesting people issue. News anchor Wilma Smith was on the cover so often she asked if she could share in profits from newsstand sales.
While I am grateful for the wonderful and talented people with whom I have worked the past 50 years, the question today is: Where does a city magazine go from here?
To begin, I must say that to be part of a second-generation business (my son, Lute Harmon Jr., is now the president of Great Lakes Publishing) is about as good as it gets.
That said, for the answer to the question, we must look to the mission of a city magazine: to be a voice of the city it serves. Today our mission is more important than ever because it is more important than ever that Cleveland continues to grow and prosper.
It was 50 years ago that Cleveland began the greatest 25-year period of growth in its history. That accomplishment was built on a shared past and a common purpose — to drive Cleveland forward.
Now would be a good time to remember the values that made our city what it is today: hard work, collaboration, innovation and respect. And, of course, a mission of that importance deserves an important voice — and, hopefully, another 50 years.
Lute Harmon Sr., Chairman