Tagged: ann finkbeiner

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.

When writers talk to scientists

My friend and faculty colleague, science writer Ann Finkbeiner, is part of a trio who maintain a lovely little blog called The Last Word on Nothing. Her most recent post is a gem, about being a writer asking questions of scientists. I love this:

My problem is made worse because I write about the physical sciences which, with the exception of gravity, are rarely part of an English major’s life experience. Nevertheless, on the whole, scientists are tolerant of my questions. Maybe they understand the unfathomable distances between their education and mine. Maybe because they usually teach undergraduates, they are used to such questions. Or maybe they don’t expect much from me in the first place:  like the dog walking on its hind legs, they think, the wonder is not that she does it well but that she does it at all.

And there’s this:

The all-time best was over a nice business dinner full of wine and charm, and the astronomer said philosophically, “You could almost say that the future is a Taylor expansion of the past.”   I said, “What’s a Taylor expansion?”  And he said, “Oh you know, you take the first derivative and then the second derivative and so on.”  And I couldn’t help myself, I said, “What’s a first derivative?”    He said—poor guy, it just slipped out—”How did you get so far with so little fuel?”

Ann has a new book coming soon, A Grand and Bold Thing. It’s about the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and I guarantee you it will be good.