Editors Forum Bulletin #3

Day 2 off to a roaring start. The Emory University crew—Mary Loftus, editor of Emory Medicine, Paige Parvin, editor of Emory Magazine, Maria Lameiras, associate editor at Emory, and Peta Westmaas, lead designer for Health Sciences Emory University—discussed what happened last summer when a person infected with Ebola entered the United States for the first time for treatment at Emory. Loftus had to tear up her planned Fall ’14 issue (actually, she mostly moved it to Spring ’15) and fill 20 pages with something high quality and meaningful about a situation of monstrous complexity and external media attention. The two magazines did tremendous, exemplary work in a situation that was volatile, emotionally charged, and sometimes absurd—for quite some time the magazine could not use the names of the (eventually) three patients brought to Emory because that would violate HIPAA rules; meanwhile, the patients’ names were in every American newspaper reporting on the crisis.

Not only did Emory get out two fine print issues, they worked with Adobe to craft an excellent iPad special publication devoted to Ebola and what transpired at Emory. (I am madly typing all of this in the hotel bar at lunch between sessions; I’ll link to some of this stuff in a later post when I’m back in Baltimore.)

Next I attended two of the better breakout sessions I’ve found in several years. First was Michael Freedman, editorial director at the Stanford School of Business, who discussed a startling decision made at Stanford Business. Like so many of us in our various editorial shops, Stanford Business had for years been concentrating on their thrice-yearly print edition, with digital stuff—web, email newsletter, etc.—coming second. Freedman, tamping down his emotional attachment to print, turned that thinking on end. Now, Stanford Business posts all editorial content online first, and subsequently collects stories that already have had a digital life, redoes the art, and publishes them again in the print magazine. Actually, he described the flow as website => social media push => email newsletter => print. They do not print the stories that generate the most web traffic; they select those pieces that will make a good print magazine. I plan more on this later, if I can get Freedman to agree to answer some questions after we’ve all gone home.

Up the stairs and down the hall I found Maureen Harmon, editor of Denison, and Patrick Kirchner, visual editor of LNP Media Group and Harmon’s partner in Dog Ear Consultants. Harmon and Kirchner are two of the smartest people in university magazines, and this was the “Dozen Don’ts” session I took note of the other day. I’d like to post more about some of this at a later date, too, but for now (another session in 20 minutes), here’s their dozen:

— Don’t think of yourselves as alumni magazine editors; think of yourselves as magazine editors who make magazines that have to work the same way as any newsstand publication.

— Don’t force things. Kill anything in the magazine that has grown stale.

— Don’t let the back of the book die from inattention. It may be the best-read section of your magazine.

— Don’t underestimate the importance and uses of typography.

— Don’t do 3,000-word profiles…at least, the bad ones that are just 3,000-word resumes. A great long profile is a thing of beauty that belongs in any magazine, but be sure the story justifies the length.

— Don’t always go for the “bold environmental portrait.” They’re often not bold and too often all look alike.

— Don’t operate in a silo. Get out of your office for advice, ideas, and feedback, and get off campus for stories.

— Don’t allow internal audiences to dictate reader needs.

— Don’t overwrite. Sometimes short is best.

— Don’t underestimate the power of sidebars.

— Don’t assign stories without considering “why would someone read this?”

— Don’t be stuffy. Have a little wit.

— Don’t be shy about being provocative when the situation merits.

Okay…check my phone, bathroom, coffee, the first afternoon session. Gotta run.

One comment

  1. Cindy Vinarsky

    Thanks for taking the time to report on the conference like this, Dale. I’m sure that others who can’t be there, including myself, are reading and absorbing every word!

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