Jacqui Banaszynski

Jacqui Banaszynski—Pulitzer winner, globe-trotting teacher, editor, writer, frequent presenter at the CASE Editors Forum—has been a friend of mine for more than 25 years. She thinks about the importance of story and the role of storyteller as well and with as much eloquence as anyone I know. The Romanian writer Cristian Lupsa, who has studied with her, recently posted this bit of writerly wisdom from Banaszynski. It reminds me of Brian Doyle:

Stories are our prayers. Write and edit them with due reverence, even when the stories themselves are irreverent.

Stories are parables. Write and edit and tell yours with meaning, so each tale stands in for a larger message, each story a guidepost on our collective journey.

Stories are history. Write and edit and tell yours with accuracy and understanding and context and with unwavering devotion to the truth.

Stories are music. Write and edit and tell yours with pace and rhythm and flow. Throw in the dips and twirls that make them exciting, but stay true to the core beat. Readers hear stories with their inner ear.

Stories are our soul. Write and edit and tell yours with your whole selves. Tell them as if they are all that matters. It matters that you do it as if that’s all there is.

Though you can never be sure where in the world she is at any given moment—Missouri, Florida, Romania, China, Maryland—Banaszynski has a house in Seattle. Next year’s Editors Forum will be in Seattle. You see where I’m going here.

Editors Forum 2017, Day Two

And on the second day, no rest for us. A full day of keynote presentations and elective sessions.

— From Evan Ratliff, co-founder of The Atavist and the Longform podcast (who was superb): “We’ve just experienced a radical failure of comprehension. You can’t fix that with hard news. You fix that with stories.”

— More from Ratliff: If you are ever describing your story to someone, notice the first thing you tell them about it. And never take that thing out of the written piece.

— And more: Stories, deep meaningful stories, are essential to our primary mission, to engaging an audience in the only way that matters—sustained reading. And what matters is not the digital media metrics. “You’re trying to reach people. Clicks are not people. Tweets are not people. Downloads are not people.”

— Kerry Temple, Notre Dame Magazine: “A Notre Dame education does not end when students graduate. Notre Dame Magazine extends continuing education to them.”

— Temple again: “When I say we cover the institution, we cover the institution. We are not a mouthpiece for the administration.”

— And again: In anticipation of controversy over a story you want to do, address the concerns of your bosses early in the process. “Don’t get too far out in front of your blockers.”

— And: “When readers get the magazine, I want them to feel like they’re having a visit to campus.”

— Kat Braz, Purdue Alumnus: Question the rules about what’s acceptable in magazine design; you might find that you want to break some.

— More Braz: “Crop [photos] like a mofo.”

— Sean Plottner and Wendy McMillan, Dartmouth Alumni Magazine: Stop shooting pictures of professors and students standing next to a globe, a bookshelf, or an open laptop.

— More McPlottner: Stop worrying about stealing. Stop running crappy headshots. Stop with the boring history. Stop being so serious with science stories. Stop with all the meetings. Stop running cutesy author’s bios. Stop running editor’s notes. And stop using semicolons.

— Richard Rhys, Wharton Magazine, and Renee Olsen, TCNJ Magazine: Casual conversations with senior administrators over lunch are much more fruitful than office meetings.

— Matt Jennings, Middlebury Magazine: “Recording an interview frees you up to notice things the digital device doesn’t. That doesn’t mean get lazy.”

— Jennings again: “Have a good plan [for an interview], but plan on deviating from your plan. The interview subject is driving the train.”

— Madeleine Baran, American Public Media and the podcast In the Dark: “Start [reporting] by assuming you’re wrong.” Continue reporting until you’ve run out of good arguments for being wrong. Only then are you probably right.

— Some more Baran: “It’s not just about knowing the facts of a place. It’s also important to know the feel of a place.”

Editors Forum 2017, Day One

 

The 2017 CASE Editors Forum wrapped up in Chicago last week, attended by about 230 magazinistas from dozens of North American colleges, universities, and independent schools. I thought it was a success, but then I would, since I co-chaired it with the wicked smart Pam Fogg of Middlebury.

Judging by what was posted to the conference’s Twitter hashtag, (#caseedforum, which quickly became known among the wags as California Seed Forum) here are the points that had the most meaning for those who attended Day One:

— Teresa Scalzo, Carleton Voice: University magazines are not competing for readers’ attention with other institutional magazines, they’re competing with all other magazines. We have to be that good.

— More Scalzo: “Print is now a luxury item. Let’s celebrate that and give our readers something they can’t get online.”

— And: Art in the magazine can start a dialog that the reader resolves.

— And: Plan content for the 5-, the 15-, and the cover-to-cover reader. Then plan to transform that 5-minute reader into a 15-minute reader.

— And: Photo captions can do more than just explain a photo. Because people commonly read photo captions before they read the story, captions can be to the story what a trailer is to a feature film.

— From Ann Finkbeiner, science writer: Don’t ask scientists why they’re doing their work. Ask them about their surprises, their struggles, their breakthroughs, their excitement.

— More Finkbeiner: In pursuit of an engaging narrative, never compromise the science by veering from fact.

— More: “You’ll know it’s a story when you’ve figured out where the tension is.” Is it between competing scientists? Between contending ideas? That’s where you begin.

— And one more: “The whole enterprise of finding the truth depends on our telling it.”

— Alissa Levin, Point Five: Limitations such as small staff or small budget can work for you. “Restraint breeds creativity. Restrictions are good. We need them to get started and know where we need to go.”

— Levin again: A digital redesign starts with what needs to happen on mobile platforms. “Mobile-first helps us focus on what’s most important and therefore leads to the best, cleanest design.”

— And: “Your website will never be finished. You always have more to do. But take it in stages, it’s less overwhelming.”

— From Evan Ratliff, co-founder of The Atavist and the Longform podcast (who was superb): “We’ve just experienced a radical failure of comprehension. You can’t fix that with hard news. You fix that with stories.”

— More from Ratliff: If you are ever describing your story to someone, notice the first thing you tell them about it. And never take that thing out of the written piece.

— Kerry Temple, Notre Dame Magazine: “A Notre Dame education does not end when students graduate. Notre Dame Magazine extends continuing education to them.”

— Kat Braz, Purdue Alumnus: Question the rules about what’s acceptable in magazine design; you might find that you want to break some.


And yes, UMagazinology has resumed. Thank you for reading.

So long for now

I need to take a few moments to make formal what should already have been apparent—UMagazinology has been put on hiatus. Actually, I’m moving it from simple neglect to hiatus status. Two reasons. One, it has become increasingly hard for me to find the time to devote to doing the job properly. Second, I think I’ve said just about everything I have to say. If you’ve been a reader here, and read my posts on CUE over the years, and heard me speak at conferences like the Editors Forum…well, you’ve heard it. Heard it multiple times, I fear. I’m keen on not boring you and I’ve started to bore myself.

So I’m going to mothball this project for a bit while I ponder a way forward that does justice to all of your magazines and your work and is also feasible for me. If I find a method for continuing, I’ll resume the blog; nothing here will disappear, we’re not shuttering the place, but we are spreading sheets on the furniture and turning off the water so the pipes don’t corrode. Thank you for reading all these years, thank you for your contributions, and thank you for the good work you do. Bye for now.