Tagged: laura mcdaniel

Welcome back

ndsucoverFrom a recent Facebook post—I get all my news via Facebook now, don’t you?—I learned that NDSU Magazine is back. This is welcome news. The magazine was created under the direction of editor Laura McDaniel in 2000. Ten years later, it suspended publication with its Fall 2009 issue. This was a real shame, because NDSU, from its inception, was a distinctive, well-crafted magazine, publishing a combination of university news, essays, and feature stories about North Dakota State researchers, scholars, and alumni, all dressed up with some superb photography and a lovely minimalist design aesthetic.

In a recent email exchange, McDaniel wrote, “We were forced to take a break for budget purposes, always with the goal of returning as soon as we had some other bills paid.”

The first issue of the revived publication is a bit skimpy, 28 pages versus the former 48-page issues. But it still looks great and has a feature story by Sean Plottner, better known in most parts as the editor of Dartmouth, about NDSU’s Vermont origins. You’ve read that right—Vermont origins, specifically Justin Smith Morrill, congressman and senator from Vermont and author of the Morrill Act, which did much to establish the land-grant system of universities that eventually included North Dakota State.

McDaniel said, “If you put an old issue next to this one, you’ll note some subtle facelift work and a slightly different mix in terms of content. We updated the flag, for example, and some inside fonts. Content wise, we’ve included more campus news. We will be pushing readers to more online material, such as class notes and obits. I should note that this issue is not the caliber to which I aspire. It takes a while to crank up the machine, and we did not make much progress on that, so this is rather cobbled together. But as ever, the idea is to produce a high-quality magazine that reflects favorably on North Dakota State University by producing a magazine people read.”

Or, as one of the magazine’s readers put it:

So many other university magazines I see are glossy, traditional house organs with a ho-hum promotional sameness about them. These are swiftly relegated to the recycle box in my garage. Your magazine, on the other hand, is flat-dab enjoyable to read, visually intriguing, and delightfully unpredictable. Reading it has become a small adventure I look forward to. So often, snobbishness invades publications containing quality writing and design, but you have managed to provide a full measure of quality and imagination with the intangible feeling of a smile and a firm handshake.

Well, that’s the sort of thing an editor likes to hear. As McDaniel observed, it doesn’t get much better than being flat-dab enjoyable.

What’s going on here?

Welcome to UMagazinology, the weblog for university, college, and independent school magazines. It comes to you by way of The University Magazine Group, a provider of university magazine editorial and design services based at Johns Hopkins University and directed by Catherine Pierre, editor of Johns Hopkins Magazine. Over the years, many of you probably had some interaction with the Alumni Magazine Consortium, directed by Donna Shoemaker; The University Magazine Group is the successor to the AMC. The other members of the group are art director Pam Li, editorial consultant Michael Anft, design consultant Shaul Tsemach, and me, The Dale.

We created UMagazinology in large part because we are evangelists for university magazines. We believe that smart, serious intellectual, science, and cultural journalism is vital. It is also endangered. Much of the commercial press, both newspapers and magazines, has been struggling to keep its head above an ever-deepening sea of red ink, and we’re pretty sure it does not see its salvation in quality journalism about molecular biology, nanoengineering, the next great contemporary orchestral composer, or the latest scholarship on Diderot. The heavy lifting for that kind of writing will be done by publications produced by foundations, nonprofits (no jokes about Conde Nast becoming one of them), and educational institutions. We believe university magazines to be uniquely suited to this mission. And we’d like to become central to a large, vibrant, robust digital conversation about what’s best in our publications, what’s less than best, what sort of problems we face, how creative editors solve those problems, and what’s on the minds of the men and women who produce the hundreds of titles in our publishing niche.

In the coming months, we plan all sorts of things for this blog. We’ll draw your attention to particularly good stories, great design, and great covers. We’ll discuss big issues like editorial autonomy, institutional imperatives, squeezed budgets, and onrushing technological developments. (Show of hands: Who’s working on an iPad edition?) We’ll pose provocative questions about what appears on university magazine pages, start a few arguments, put the spotlight on new talent, and now and then try to bring you the story behind the story. We hope the comments section becomes a lively forum, and that we’ll regularly hear from you with ideas for future posts, debate about current posts, and some jabs when you think we’ve got that coming. This will always be a work in progress. We’re excited by that. We hope you are too.

And as Laura McDaniel says in every issue of NDSU Magazine, “Thank you for reading.”