by Jamie Rich | December 13, 2021

Making Magazine Magic in 2021

A break with tradition proves that sometimes change is just what we needed, plus a look back at 2021


I’m a die-hard when it comes to putting up a real Christmas tree during the holidays. The aroma, the natural beauty, the romance of taking the family to the tree lot on a crisp North Florida night to select just the right one. Despite this evergreen love, I recently found myself shopping alone at Home Depot on a balmy Sunday afternoon, still wearing workout clothes from the morning, and surveying the carnage inside a barren Christmas tree tent, the ground littered with remnants of the Fraser firs that came before me. No romance, just frenzied commerce.

Editor in Chief Jamie Rich’s new artificial tree. Photography courtesy of Jamie Rich.

“We’re not getting any more shipments,” I overheard a sweaty attendant say to another shopper as he wrapped a spindly tree with twine. Panic set in. I had already reconned other real-tree lots in the area and the selection was meager. The rumored “great Christmas tree shortage” seemed to have some truth to it, and it threatened to derail our family’s tradition.

It was only Dec. 6 when I turned on my heels and entered the sliding glass doors of the Home Depot store, speeding through the already-picked-over holiday section—just to see. A display of small, fake plastic trees blinked ominously. Then an oversized, white “Home Decorators Collection” box stuffed underneath a row of garden supplies caught my eye. I stopped my cart and bent down to read the description. Height: 7.5 feet. That’s what I need. Branches: Most realistic. How realistic are we talking? Lights: interchanging white to colored. Hmmm…tacky but could also be fun.

“You can return it if you don’t like it,” a smiling sales rep said as she buzzed past me.

A colored LED lightbulb went off in my head. Sometimes an idea you’ve fought for so long, suddenly and unexpectedly, becomes the thing you never knew you needed and wholeheartedly embrace.

Back at home, my husband and I popped up the new purchase in about 10 minutes, and I immediately fell head-over-heels. What would have been a day-long labor of love stringing lights turned into instant gratification with five radiant light settings—with moods ranging from Oh Holy Night to Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. No more sneezing, no more sweeping needles, no more watering. No more stress. After only a couple of hours, we were relaxing on the couch, basking in the remote-controlled glow.

Just like my holiday tree tradition, I was also a die-hard for a print magazine. And as we know, the pandemic forced Flamingo to change. For a while, we broke from our print tradition to tell Florida’s greatest stories and wholeheartedly embraced our online persona. But a lot has happened at the roost in 2021 (including a move to a new office), and what a difference a year has made.

To start, we doubled down on digital storytelling, revamping the look and feel of our Fresh Squeezed e-newsletter and to better reflect Flamingo’s editorial style and showcase more stories on our homepage. Hopefully, you caught some of our favorite online exclusives this year, like our video interview with Tiger King’s Carole Baskin or deputy editor Jessica Giles’ feature story on lawn mower racing, with some killer photography by Mary Beth Koeth, or Craig Pittman’s profile of T.T. Wentworth, a once-respected historian who was revealed as a KKK leader. Along with weightier pieces on saving Florida’s coral reef and understanding the complicated history behind the Dixie Highway, we continued to profile the Sunshine State’s best chefs, makers and musicians, always committed to covering an eclectic mix of the most compelling people, places and pastimes that make Florida so fascinating.

In return, 2021 gifted us with many reasons to celebrate. Writer Moni Basu won a prestigious Wilbur Award, a national honor for religious writing for her piece, “In Search of Spirits in Cassadaga.” The Society of Professional Journalists Florida Chapter also awarded us the Best Single Issue for our Spring 2020 Icons Issue (the last physical magazine we printed pre-pandemic). We also took first place for our online feature story, “Does Florida’s Water Spring Eternal,” on the perilous state of the Floridan aquifer, and for Diane Roberts’ Capital Dame column—one of the first elements of the magazine to come together when we set out on this journey in 2016.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been creating “Florida’s magazine” for five years now, but we have. To properly mark that milestone, this spring we brought back the romance of print with the release of our Fifth Anniversary Collector’s Edition—a beautiful 200-page homage to Flamingo’s best stories over the past five years. (You can buy it here.) Then we followed that special issue with our Fall/Winter Explore Edition. We had so much fun making magazine magic again that we plan to do it twice a year now, in addition to a full slate of our award-winning online stories.

In 2021, we also spread our wings beyond the Sunshine State, selling Flamingo on newsstands across the Southeast from North Carolina to Alabama and all states in between. You can find us in places like Publix, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and more. And I would encourage you to pick a copy up for yourself or a friend this holiday season.

Like me and my new tree, I hope you are head-over-heels for Flamingo in all its forms because we couldn’t do what we do without you, our readers. Help us continue to grow and push our storytelling to new heights by purchasing our Fifth Anniversary Collector’s Edition or any of our past print editions available in our shop. You can also subscribe or give the gift of a Flamingo subscription; it might become the one thing you never knew you needed and discover you just can’t live without.