WHIRL @ Work is an exclusive look at the employees of WHIRL Magazine, founded in 2001 as the Pittsburgh region’s premier lifestyle magazine. This week, we sat down with WHIRL Editor in Chief Christine Tumpson to talk about all things magazines and Pittsburgh.
By Veronica Cheng, Advertising Intern, + Maria Vogel, Editorial Intern
Photograph by Michael Fornataro
Where did you go to school and what did you major in?
I studied law at the National Law Center at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and went on to practice child custody law in Pittsburgh. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a communications degree and had a little radio show called Spotlight while there. I also wrote for The Pitt News and had an internship at WPXI-TV, which turned into a hired position.
How did your career begin?
My career started in high school at Shady Side Academy, where I was on the yearbook staff and really fell in love with writing and learning.
How did you transition into the magazine industry?
When Jack and I met, he was a concert promoter and I was a child custody attorney, as well as a mediator in family law for Allegheny County. We fell in love, had our son, and moved to Nashville. It was there that we realized people in Nashville had a great self-confidence. Every time we came back to Pittsburgh, we were struck by how much it had to offer, culturally and artistically, and yet there was a pervasive negativity about the city. We started WHIRL with the intent for others to see Pittsburgh through our eyes, to showcase the positive aspects of the city. We’ve seen the city grow into the city we always thought it would be with that kind of positive mindset.
What was your vision for the magazine when you first began?
We wanted to showcase the positive aspects of Pittsburgh, highlighting the philanthropic side that was and still is, the epic numbers of charitable giving. We are fourth per capita [in the country]. We wanted to showcase the people who supported the fundraisers and show that everyone in Pittsburgh was involved.
What were the biggest obstacles to overcome while establishing WHIRL?
When we first started, people told us that we would have to find talent to work with outside of the city — that there were limited talented writers and photographers and art in Pittsburgh. We didn’t believe them. We have found and continue to work with amazing talent.
Is there a moment in your mind, after the initial establishment of the magazine, where you could sense that what you had created would be a success?
You know, you get to levels in building a business where you have those moments, but it is a lot like hiking or climbing — you get to that point, but you can never stand still. As firmly as your feet are planted, you have to keep moving. For me, those moments happen all the time, but at new levels.
Looking back, did you ever envision that your life path would take you where it has?
No. The first thing I’m going to say to whoever meets me when I cross into the other side is, “Wow, I did not expect that.” When I met Jack, I knew I had met my soulmate and knew we’d go places, but we’ve gone places I never would have believed. You have to focus on the positive — that’s the key message we’re trying to send out to people. You really get what you give, and as a community, if you believe in that, you’ll really benefit from that.
Where do you see WHIRL heading in the future?
I want to keep it a small, family business in some ways. There are so many opportunities just in Pittsburgh that we keep discovering that it’s hard to limit ourselves. So, we’ve gone into events, the One WHIRL Yoga Fest + Healthy Lifestyle Expo, the dining scene, etc. Who knows what’s going to be next? I know it will be something exciting.