Tagged: notre dame

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.”

Great minds think alike, Pt. 2

If you recall, a few weeks ago I lamented Notre Dame Magazine arriving in my mailbox with this coloring book cover:

coverimage

The basis of my lament was that Johns Hopkins Magazine, which I edit, was in the midst of a theme issue on fun—stop that chortling right now—and our art director, Pam Li, had been mocking up a similar concept:

jhm

Okay. Now you’re brought up to date. Which brings me to this, new in my mailbox from Denison:

cover_300x366

Open this one up and you find six more pages of Denison scenes for your coloring pleasure. Who’s next?

Oh, just so you know, after she abandoned the coloring book idea, Pam Li cooked up something way different for the Johns Hopkins Magazine summer issue. A click on the image will make the cover lines legible.

JHMag_Summ2016_cov1

 

Make Mine Print, Please!

lists_bookstores_grumpy_listKerry Temple has been at the helm of the estimable Notre Dame Magazine for quite a while now. Two weeks ago he published a column titled “Out of the Office: The Science of Print.” I commend it to your attention.

Temple deftly weaves notes on how he reads print and pixels differently, is preferences, and neuroscience that has demonstrated the different outcomes of reading text on paper versus text on a screen.

I am more likely to skim online content — not fully engaged, cruising over text looking for highlights, bullet points, the pertinent “take-aways,” while also trying to ignore pop-ups, ads and other distractions. Some call this “information foraging,” not reading. I do a lot of foraging in a day.

So here at the magazine, when I read a manuscript sent to us for potential publication, I print it out. I make sure I read the hard copy, not the screen version. That helps me really read the words, pay closer attention, fully engage the story being told, be with it as I read it.

I do this because my job as an editor asks me to care about the depth and quality and nuance and substance of the stories we tell on our pages. I also do this because, as a writer, I know the labor put into crafting prose. The writer deserves my attention to detail; I honor the transaction with my thoughtful focus, by being fully present during the encounter.

I would not mind a bit an editor who brought that sensibility to a story of mine. Regarding some of the science:

“People understand and remember what they read on paper better than what they read on screen,” says Ferris Jabr, writing in Scientific American. “Researchers think the physicality of paper explains this discrepancy.” And according to the presentation, this applies to “digital natives” as well.

But the next step — that reading actively shapes brain development — deserves equal attention. Citing Proust and the Squid: The Story & Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf, a neuroscientist and child development expert, the booklet explains: “The ability to derive meaning from abstract letterforms is not built into our neural circuitry; every generation has to learn it anew, and when we do it rearranges the way our brains are built. Reading and writing only happen when the brain grows the interconnected neural pathways for sharing information. And here it gets really interesting: the media we use to carry our messages have a lot to do with how those neural pathways get developed.”

The medium does not just carry the message; it helps shape the brain.

Temple wraps all of this up with a sentence that gladdens me:

Any enterprise hoping to last depends upon constant adaptation to shifting landscapes. But the qualities of reading still supersede the fast-food snacks gleaned from foraging.

Indeed.

Visitors

nd

The summer issue of Notre Dame Magazine contains a superb essay by Andrew J. Bacevich titled “Lessons from America’s War for the Greater Middle East.” Bacevich is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, a Vietnam War combat veteran, a PhD in history, and now on the faculty at Boston University. In the essay, Bacevich explores 10 lessons that he believes should be derived from more than 30 years of warfare in the Middle East, three decades of fighting that he thinks should be regarded as a single long conflict. Here’s one graph that gives you the flavor:

Let me state plainly my own overall assessment of that war. We have not won it. We are not winning it. And simply pressing on is unlikely to produce more positive results next year or the year after—hence, the imperative of absorbing the lessons this ongoing war has to teach. Learning offers a first-step toward devising wiser, more effective and less costly policies.

When I heard that Bacevich was in Notre Dame’s magazine, I perked up. He taught for a time in the 1990s at Johns Hopkins’ international affairs school, and I’ve wanted to get him into my magazine for years. How did he end up in Notre Dame Magazine? He is a former visiting fellow at the school’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

For a lot of our magazines that would be too slender a connection. Overseers often want only subjects or writers who are on the faculty now, if they’re not alumni. More rare is the piece written by an author with no connection to the university at all. I see such essays in Portland Magazine, where Brian Doyle is the master at cajoling words out of Pico Iyer, Barry Lopez, and other fine scribblers. But otherwise, almost nothing.

Yet most, if not all, of our campuses feature guest lecturers and speakers and participants in colloquia, several per year. This seems to me like justification for publishing the occasional piece by a guest contributor who is not an alum, not on the faculty, not a former anything at your school. The speaker series brings in interesting people to speak on your campus in the belief that this broadens the discourse and provides something stimulating to students, faculty, and people in the community. Why shouldn’t the magazine follow the same reasoning and bring in guest writers to produce thought-provoking content for your alumni?

A tough sell for the conventional mind of the overseer. But worth a try.

That Notre Dame cover

ndfoodcoverJohns Hopkins Magazine is published by the Johns Hopkins University Office of Communications. That office has a design director, Greg Stanley, and he cannot stop looking at the cover of the winter edition of Notre Dame Magazine. Before he realized that the image was a photograph of a sculpture by Klaus Enrique, Stanley kept turning the cover this way and that, trying to discern if the artwork was an actual food sculpture (it is) or something executed in Photoshop (nuh-uh). What had most arrested his attention, though, was the sheer excellence of the work, the extraordinary pains the artist had taken to create something so striking.

Enrique has done a series of such sculptures, inspired by the work of 16th-century Italian painter Giuseppe ArcimboldoNotre Dame editor Kerry Temple devoted much of his editor’s note to explaining his choice of Enrique’s sculpture to grace the cover:

We thought Enrique’s portrait would make a playful, engaging, creatively cool image to introduce stories about the campus food culture—something fresh and different, like the subject itself.

Of course, we, too, see the incongruity in having a whimsical image pointing to the campus culinary scene as the face of an issue whose feature articles thoughtfully and thoroughly examine poverty, inequality, injustice and the future of the human race—even though this issue’s more serious stories are not laments but compelling prescriptions for hope. We’re all aware of the discrepancies between the haves and the hungry.

We went lighter on the cover for several reasons. One is that we thought those weightier topics—immigration, international development, global health, Catholicism and encounters with cancer—difficult to illustrate with fresh appeal. We also realized—although these subjects are of profound importance and the stories well worthy of your close reading—that the topics may not entice as cover attractions. And we always want readers eager to dive into our pages.

I like how clearly Temple lays out a common editorial dilemma. Should the cover alert readers to the best or most significant story in the issue? Or should it do whatever it can to get readers to pick up the magazine and check out what’s inside? It is easy to say it should do both, but as Temple points out, creating a cover that promises a fresh perspective on immigration or cancer or global health, that entices an audience to read yet another story on those well-worn topics, would not have been easy. The Enrique sculpture, on the other hand, is unlike anything I have seen on the front of any magazine in many a year, and does reflect what’s inside (there’s a 20-page section of stories on campus food culture).

As a writer who has become an editor, I have an instinctive urge to argue for putting the best story on the cover, even if the best story is a heavy examination of a grim topic. But if you don’t get readers to start thumbing through the issue, you have no chance of enticing them to read that heavy feature. We have all been there.

By the way, inside Notre Dame you will find a hilarious bit of memoir from Brian Doyle about his campaign to win the title Napper of the Year in his kindergarten.

On my second day of kindergarten, at a school named for a species of tree, I discovered that our teacher, Miss Appleby, presented a Best Napper Award every week, and that the child who earned the most weekly napping awards was then presented with the Best Napper of the Year Award in June, on the last day of school, in assembly, before the entire school, which went from kindergarten to sixth grade, and contained some two hundred students, none of whom, I determined immediately, would outnap me.

I report with admirable modesty that I won the first week’s Best Napper Award, defeating Michael A., who slept like a rock but flung his feet and fists as he slept (he had six brothers at home). I also won Week Two, in a landslide, but a small, moist boy named Brian F. beat me in Week Three, and the battle was joined.