When Jack Tumpson '68 and his wife, Christine, decided to get into magazine publishing eight years ago, they knew it would be a challenge. "Neither of us had ever been involved with publishing before," he said. But they didn't let their lack of experience stop them.
Today, Tumpson is the publisher of Whirl, which he and his wife, Christine, who serves as editor-and-chief, founded in Pittsburgh in 2000 as a social and special events magazine. Today, Whirl has grown into a regional lifestyle publication with a readership of more than 100,000.
Tumpson also publishes At Home With magazine, which features articles on local celebrities' families, cooking, home decorating, crafts, and home entertaining. In addition, he recently launched a new magazine called Edible Allegheny, which deals with the local food movement and focuses on local foods, sustainability and our region's distinct culinary style.
Tumpson, who's originally from Mt. Lebanon, Pa., attended RMU in downtown Pittsburgh from 1966 to 1968, where he received an associate in arts degree. After working for 16 years as a manufacturer's representative in the kitchen and building supply industry, he began a second career in the music business as a concert promoter for Next Big Thing Productions, which he founded with former college roommate, Patrick McArdle.
In 1985, the two landed their first big promotion when they brought alternative newcomers R.E.M. to the Syria Mosque in Oakland. "We were fortunate that Pat had a connection in New York who knew the band," said Tumpson. "It was a big coup for us." The year after that, they brought in James Brown.
Tumpson also brought a number of acts to the former Star Lake Amphitheatre (now Post-Gazette Pavilion) in Pittsburgh, including the Spin Doctors, Blues Traveler, Pantera, Rusted Root and the Horde Festival. Consequently, in 1994, he became director of marking for Star Lake, owned by Pace Entertainment. Then, in 1997, he took a job as executive director of Starwood Amphitheatre in Nashville, Tenn.
In 2000, Tumpson declined an offer to work for SFX in Sacramento, Calif., and instead moved back to Pittsburgh. He and Christine had both grown up in the region and had an idea for a new magazine. Also, with two young children, they felt Pittsburgh was the best place to raise their family. "Whenever I would come back," Tumpson said, "we would take our kids to the museums and the National Aviary, and we started to see the city's cultural amenities with new eyes."
Upon returning to Pittsburgh, Tumpson started to put Whirl together. His goal was to highlight the area's cultural attractions and show the region in a positive light. "We wanted a way to show active, intelligent people from our community out and about," said Tumpson, "and to show how vibrant we are as a region and how much we have to offer."
For Tumpson, publishing Whirl has proven to be both demanding and rewarding. "It takes time to build a readership," he said. "Magazine publishing is different from the fast-paced world of concert promotion. It's a much longer, more involved process. But, for me, it's more gratifying as well."
Tumpson speaks highly of his time at RMU. "My time there was truly a life-learning experience," he said. "I met individuals from all over Pittsburgh and got a real education on people in general. I met people from every demographic and every walk of life, which has proven to be invaluable. I also learned how to communicate."
Tumpson said the key to being a successful publisher is hard work and persistence. "Keep going," he said, "no matter what obstacles you encounter." He also stressed the importance of internships during your college years. "Interning at different organizations gives you an opportunity to see what people are really doing and whether you want to be a part of it or not. Once you find something you like to do, it doesn't seem like work. And that makes all the difference in the world."