I had every intention of blogging from the Editors Forum in balmy Minneapolis. (When I can count the degrees of a March morning temperature on the fingers of one hand . . . well, let’s just say viewer discretion is advised.) But what little time was left over after preparing to present, presenting, attending other presentations, meeting with editors, reading unfamiliar alumni magazines, eating, failing to prevent Matt Jennings from stealing my dessert flatware, and doing my part to support the brewers of the Upper Midwest had to be devoted to grabbing sleep. So here is a belated roundup for the 800 or so UMagazinology readers who did not attend the conference.
— Tina Hay and Penn State commanded much of the first day’s sessions with the notable story of how she and The Penn Stater handled the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse debacle. She made the very smart observation that it would behoove an alumni magazine editor and staff to not ignore but to cover some smaller problems that arise on campus, as a way to proactively set some precedent for covering controversy should a big one suddenly burst through the gates of Hell and descend on the school. If something big happens, you may find your path to covering it smoother because you’ve already set some precedent, and you’ve also established with the higher powers that you can do that coverage responsibly and professionally and your readers will take it in stride.
— Hay also advised writing some sort of template for crisis coverage now, before the gates of Hell open etc . . .
— I think I speak for a lot of people when I express my thanks to and respect for Rod Kirsch for appearing at the conference with Hay. Kirsch is senior vice president for development and alumni relations at Penn State. Also known as Hay’s Big Boss. He talked about how he saw the magazine as a means for Penn State to counter the discouraging amount of bad journalism, blogging, and commentary that was devoted to the scandal. He admitted that he did not like the now-famous Penn Stater black cover on the issue devoted to the scandal, and might have lobbied for changing it had he seen it beforehand. He won me over by also admitting that now he’s glad that was the magazine’s cover. He also personally sent copies of the magazine to some key people and told them they had to read it. That, my friends, is a vice president of an editor’s dreams.
— I had read the description of the last session of Day One, titled “What Would You Do?” and pretty much an open mic night for other editors to talk about their dilemmas, and figured I’d last about 10 minutes as editors lined up to complain about what passed for a professional crisis in their offices. But I was riveted by the stories of what some of our colleagues have to contend with. Magazines at Roman Catholic colleges that cannot even mention certain topics or people because of church doctrine. The magazine that can’t write about a scientist’s evidence that fracking might induce earthquakes because the school has a major donor who made his fortune in extractive industries. The school with a climate scientist that dares not write about his work because of an ultra-conservative and, I would argue, ultra-ignorant state legislature that might penalize the school. On and on. Sort of diminishes my complaint about the member of the Class of 1951 who calls to bitch at me for not writing enough about the Johns Hopkins football team.
— Kristina Halvorsen, CEO of Brain Traffic, asked rhetorically how the Web became such a content landfill. She also made the point that digital content on the Web is not static, like a print magazine. We can’t just post it and forget about it. We say that Web content “goes live” for a reason—it is live in significant ways. It moves around the interwebs, it gets linked to, social media picks it up and bats it around. This means alumni magazines and university communications departments need a digital content strategy. That very phrase gives me the jitters, but she’s right.
— Anyone who wishes to comment on breakout sessions should do so in Comments. I could only attend a few, obviously, and don’t want to slight the ones I did not hear.
— The one place the conference sagged was the session by photographer Steve Woit. Seemed like an amiable guy with a dry wit and a wealth of professional experience working with alumni magazines, but he was not an engaging presenter and I didn’t come away from his session knowing anything I didn’t already know. A forthcoming CASE conference should give serious thought to presenting a photographer who can help editors see photos as a photographer sees them, to better understand why one image works and another one that looks almost the same to the untrained eye does not work. I’d go to that one, and I’m a photographer.
— Jacqui Banaszynski presented at an Editors Forum for the fifth time—at least we counted five at lunch after the conference—and gave ample evidence why she keeps getting invited back. She talked about the power of and profound human need for storytelling, and moved much of the room to tears. (Not me, because I’m a really tough guy, a man’s man. OK, maybe I had to swallow hard a few times. And my eyes filled once. Maybe two times.) She was tremendous, as always, powerful and smart and energetic and funny.
— Did I mention that Minneapolis was cold? But the people sure were warm, at least those I encountered. Unfailingly polite and pleasant in a way that warmed this Midwestern boy’s heart.
— Never have I seen a security line like what I encountered at the Minneapolis airport. I’d allowed a couple of hours and good thing. By the time I cleared security, I had five minutes to choke down a sandwich before boarding my flight to Baltimore. Jeesh what a mob.
— Kudos to co-chairs Susan Blystone and Suzanne Gray. I’ve co-chaired two Editors Forums (Fora?) and have a pretty good eye for when the people in charge have to scramble to patch a pothole or stick a finger in the dike. As far as I could tell, the Soozes had everything humming like a tuned-up Aston Martin. Also many thanks to Emily DeYoung and her staff, who were exemplary.
— Last note: At the magazine exchange, I saw a lot of magazines that do not send copies to me for consideration by the blog. Ahem. You know who you are. Send me your publications. Don’t make me repeat myself.
Nothing more to say but . . . see you in New Orleans. Yes, the next conference will be sited in New Orleans. The Dale abides.