In 1996 Cathy Zion left a stable job in banking to make a return to her original career in journalism – not as a reporter but as the publisher of a small specialty publication for women.
Since then the Louisvillian has weathered a tidal wave of new media and a major economic downturn, yet her monthly Today’s Woman remains a successful capstone to a trio of popular local magazines.
Zion appeared on KET’s Connections with Renee Shaw to discuss her career and her work on Gov. Steve Beshear’s recent blue ribbon commission on tax reform.
A Resource for Women
After 21 years in banking, Zion had risen to become a vice president for Fifth Third Bank in Louisville. But she found herself growing restless. She says she feared she wasn’t using her talents to make a sufficient difference in the things she cared about or in her community.
That’s when she learned that the founders of a local publication called Today’s Woman were looking to sell. The opportunity piqued her curiosity. Zion says she had a long-standing interest in women’s issues, she had a degree in journalism from Murray State University, and she once served as an editor of a newspaper in Trigg County.
“I thought, you know, maybe I could use this as a real voice and resource for women in this community,” Zion says.
After discussing the idea with her husband, a retired banker, and old friends in the newspaper business, Zion purchased Today’s Woman.
A Goal of Empowerment
That’s when the reality set in. Zion went from having a full-time staff of 65 people at the bank to having two part-timers at the publication. Plus the original incarnation of the Today’s Woman, which was a newsprint tabloid, featured content written by its advertisers.
So Zion set about expanding the staff, creating original reporting, upgrading the publication to a glossy magazine, and building the advertising base to pay for it all. She focused the publication to tell stories about what Zion saw as key areas in women’s lives: style, health and wellness, power, and connections.
“That’s really what Today’s Woman magazine is about is telling the stories of… women so that others, regardless of their walk in life, can see those stories and hopefully will say, ‘Gosh, they overcame that hurdle or they accomplished that after a rough time.’” Zion explains. “Then they too will feel like they can do it and they’re empowered to do the same thing.”
Maintaining Local Connections
Now 50,000 copies of Today’s Woman reach newsstands and subscribers every month. In the years since, Zion’s company, Zion Publishing, added two more publications: Today’s Transitions, targeted to seniors and those caring for older family members, and Today’s Family, which focuses on parenting issues.
Although she’s fielded inquiries about expanding Today’s Woman to other markets, Zion says she’s content to serve her readers in Jefferson County and the adjoining communities in southern Indiana.
“What really sets us apart and what makes us very unique is that we do spotlight only local women,” Zion says. “To do that with an expansive geographic area makes it a little bit harder to really keep a personal, local connection.”
A Voice in Shaping Tax Policy
As chair of Kentucky’s Commission on Small Business Advocacy, Zion was appointed in 2012 to serve on Gov. Steve Beshear’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform. She says it was a fascinating experience to learn about state finances and to collaborate on recommendations for overhauling Kentucky’s tax codes.
“The more business friendly we can make our state, the better it’s going to be,” Zion says. “We’ll bring more businesses in, they’ll employ more people, they will pay taxes, and that will generate the type of revenue that we need.”
Although she was pleased with the ideas the commission presented, Zion says she’s disappointed that the legislature failed to embrace their recommendations. She says reform of the state’s antiquated tax codes is critical.
“We as a state cannot continue to jury-rig the system to make it work,” Zion says. “It’s not a sustainable plan.”