Tagged: swarthmore

UMag inbox: Lots of pictures

swatcoverA couple of terrific covers in my inbox. The first is from Swarthmore, a photo of Jackie Morgen, founder of the Swat Circus at the college, by Laurence Kesterson. The “cover story” is about seven inches in the front of the book, which strikes me as odd. I’m still not quite on board with the thinking that the cover story need not be a feature. But the counter-argument is that your cover works if it gets people to pick up and open the magazine, and this one works in that regard. (Sherri Kimmel edits the magazine.)

tuftscoverThe second cover, which I really love, comes courtesy of Tufts. For those of you who can’t place the school, Tufts is in Boston. In the wake of the bombing of this year’s Boston Marathon, editor David Brittan ran a tribute to Tufts marathoners, including former student Bobbi Gibb, who in 1966 defied a ban on female runners in the marathon, snuck into the field disguised as a man, and as far as anyone knows became the first woman to complete the race, running the 26.2 miles in 3:21. Photographer Kathleen Dooher was assigned the job of creating a striking cover image of a Gibb, and man oh man did she succeed.

Dartmouth Medicine has updated its design package. Editor is Amos Esty; design by Bates Creative. Below are covers from before and after. (Click on all of these if you want to see them honkin’ big.)

dmcover1   dmcover2


ricecoverWhile we’re asking various magazines “have you done something different with your hair?” I have to note a redesign I love, at Rice. It was executed by the magazine’s newish (as of November 2012) art director Erick Delgado. I’d point you to an electronic version or PDF edition so you could admire more of it, but the magazine does not seem to be online. Lynn Gosnell edits.

vettatsFinally, LMU out of Loyola Marymount has a great six-page spread on memorial tattoos. Written by editor Joseph Wakelee-Lynch, “Ink Tank” describes and samples the Memorial Ink project by Andrew Ranson. Ranson finds veterans who bear tattoos that memorialize comrades who were killed in action, then interviews them and photographs their memorials. The magazine’s website has created a gallery of the Jon Rou photos that accompanied the story.

Eight questions for Sherri Kimmel and Ann Wiens

Two of the best alumni magazines in the land have appointed—anointed?—new editors. Sherri Kimmel, most recently editor of Dickinson Magazine, takes over from Jeff Lott at Swarthmore College Bulletin, and Ann Wiens, who created and edited Demo at Columbia College Chicago, will step into the office previously occupied by Guy Maynard at Oregon Quarterly. It goes without saying that their first editorial duties were responding to the UMagazinology questionnaire.

How long were you in your previous editorial jobs?

Kimmel: I served as senior editor of Dickinson Magazine for 12 years.

Wiens: I launched Demo in the summer of 2005 and edited it until the fall of 2010, when I left Columbia for a non-editorial position at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

What proved to be the most significant thing you had to learn to do those jobs?

Kimmel: When I was hired, I was the only person working on the magazine. Then we added more staff to the roster, so I needed to learn how to hire good writers, manage them and inspire them to thrive, grow, and prosper.

Wiens: With Demo, it was to navigate the politics and various agendas of a large institution, and to learn when to dig my heels in to push something through and when to let it go. That, and basic HTML.

What have been your best experiences in alumni mag-azines?

Kimmel: Traveling to Germany three times to interview an alumnus for two magazines (ours and a national consumer magazine). The three Dickinson German courses that I took after the first visit boosted my bond with this distinguished octo-genarian writer/diplomat.

Wiens: Getting to meet so many people—story subjects, readers, and contributors—I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and finding all these little gems of experience that make great stories, then figuring out how to work through the writers and photographers to connect readers with those stories. With alumni magazines, you’re working within the limitations of the institutional purview—generally, everything in the magazine must somehow connect back to the college or university. This limitation forces you to look for stories in a different way than you would if your charge were broader, if that restriction weren’t in place. There’s a common exercise in painting and drawing classes in which students are restricted to a small range of colors or materials. The restriction is designed to force creativity, to encourage students to pull out all the stops in other areas, such as observation, composition, or mark-making. Editing an alumni magazine is similar—it compels editors and writers to look for the story in places they might not otherwise, to dig a bit deeper, be a bit quirkier, forgo the obvious.

What have proven to be your biggest frustrations?

Kimmel: Just now, making the grade in the UMagazinology blog. But seriously, dealing with the donors, trustees, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and students who did an end run around me to pitch outlandish story ideas or complain directly to senior officers. Luckily, leadership saw fit to bounce the decisions on how to respond down to me. But responding took a lot of time and tact and additional minutes in the college gym blowing off steam.

Wiens: Institutional politics, and the ongoing difficulty of convincing certain administrators that magazines and marketing/development brochures are not the same thing.

What part of your previous magazines never quite satisfied you, despite everybody’s best effort?

Kimmel: The sports section. We always have had limited space and felt obligated to run a roundup of seasonal results. With some reimagining (and another page) we could have made it more engaging.

Wiens: Demo was called Demo because we set out to show, rather than tell, the college’s stories. There was a section in each issue called “Portfolio,” which was intended to show the creative work of an individual or group with minimal text, to be a portfolio of work. It generally ran three or four spreads, and might feature a short story, or a series of photographs, or images of artwork. I still think the idea was solid, but it seldom hit just right. We always thought it could be a truly powerful, sustained feature, but it usually fell short, in my view. I suspect we tried to make it carry more weight than it really could.

What stories are you proudest to have published?

Kimmel: “Making Their Mark—Presenting the 25 Most Influential Dickinsonians.” The top 25 (in college history) were selected based on the number of votes cast by our readers, then our full staff (including two students) wrote 25 short profiles for our fall 2007 cover story. We created a lot of good will and inspired reader response and we invited all of the living “Influentials” to a luncheon at the President’s House. Recipients still list their Influentials status in their bios for speaking engagements.

Wiens: Despite my previous answer, the story I’m probably proudest to have published was the Portfolio in Demo 9, which was a selection of photographs by students and alumni who were in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night 2008, witnessing Obama’s historic win. Grant Park, where Obama held his home-town election-night rally, is across the street from Columbia College, and many in the campus community were there, some great photojournalists among them. I worked with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer John H. White, who teaches at Columbia, to put together a portfolio of images shot that night by his students and former students. John is African American and knew Obama; the victory was personal for him, adding to the beauty of the story. The images and accompanying text by the photographers capture a moment when I felt proud of my country, proud of my city, and proud of the community of students the magazine represented.

If you each could commission a story from any writer in the world, who would it be?

Kimmel: Before Nov. 29, I would have said the late Saul Bellow. But since I interviewed Margaret Atwood (on campus for a guest lecture that day), I would give the Canadian icon the nod. She wrote one of my favorite novels, The Blind Assassin, is dedicated to sustainability, and has about 300,000 Twitter followers. Who could ask for anything more?

Wiens: My favorite writer right now is Jim Crace, but I’m having a hard time imagining what he’d do with an alumni magazine article. Maybe Bill Bryson. His writing is like a good cocktail—an easy mix of history, humor, interesting word choices and sentence structures, personal anecdotes, and worldly information, so the reading is purely enjoyable at first, but it has a kick to it, it affects you without your realizing it. When I’m reading one of his books, I find myself thinking about what I’ve read, pondering new knowledge, engaging friends in discussions about obscure tidbits of information. Oh wait, I’d pick David Sedaris. Yeah, definitely David Sedaris. Maybe.

If you weren’t editors, what would your dream jobs be?

Kimmel: Horse whisperer.

Wiens: The job I’m beginning next month feels like my dream job, with all its potential as yet untainted by day-to-day reality. I think I’ll just bask in that for the time being!

Bonus question: What a) thrills you the most and b) scares you the most about your new postings?

Kimmel: A) Great place, great president, great people, great (Quaker) val-ues, great mag. B) Leaving a college I love, and staff that I love, to begin anew.

Wiens: I’m thrilled—truly, honestly, pinch-myself de-lighted—to be assuming the editorship of a magazine as solid as Oregon Quarterly, at an institution that clearly understands the value of a real magazine over a marketing piece, and seems committed to supporting its independence and continued editorial quality. I’m thrilled at the opportunities I see to add to what Guy Maynard and his colleagues have built. I’m scared, as an outsider, of getting it wrong, of misreading a story due to my lack of familiarity with the place. Thankfully, Guy has agreed to stick around for a while, to keep the training wheels on until I have a sense of the place and the publication. So I’m not that scared.


I think the first editor of A Major Significant CASE-Medal-Gobbling Alumni Magazine that I ever met, except for my boss at the time, was Tina Hay. But it could not have been long after meeting her that I first encountered Jeff Lott. You could not attend a CASE Editors Forum and not encounter Jeff Lott, and I’ve been to every one of them, so that’s a lot of encounters. This month, Lott retires as editor of Swarthmore College Bulletin after nearly 20 years at the top of the masthead.

I could tell you  a few Jeff Lott stories—poker games in various hotel rooms, manic dancing to Lynyrd Skynyrd covers in Nashville, a nocturnal foray in New Orleans that he still doesn’t fully remember, the details of his Cele Garrett Award, listening to a blues band play a song titled “If That’s All You Got to Say, Just Get Your Sorry Ass Home.” Then there was the time I did most everything I could to end his career with a single feature story that never saw light of day . . .  But dwelling on all of that would mean unjustly passing over his accomplishments, and they are substantial. Foremost, he was a damned fine editor who put out a damned fine magazine. Swarthmore set a standard for alumni magazines: smart, honest, well crafted, ex-emplary of the college that publishes it. Beyond that, Lott gave uncounted hours to the Editors Forum (he was there at the founding), the CASE Summer Institute, and other endeavors to raise the quality and defend the integrity of alumni mag-azines. We have a CASE-endorsed statement of standards for university magazines because of him, and if you knew what it took to get that accomplished, you’d appreciate it all the more. He did yeoman’s work pushing forward the ever-growing CASE member magazine reader survey. Plus, when he gets the chance, he journeys to Cambodia to help build houses. (Sure. Go ahead. Make me feel inadequate. Jerk.)

I asked a group of his distinguished colleagues to step up and testify:

Dean Woodbeck, formerly at Michigan Tech University: “An enduring memory of Jeff comes from one of the early CASE Editors Forums, when he led a session that had to do with the often-contentious relationship between editors and development officers. Jeff emerged as the moderator in his referee uniform, as I recall complete with a whistle, and set a very appropriate mood for the afternoon. He shoots . . . he scores!!!”

Brian Doyle, Portland Magazine: “The tattoos, the sniggering, the way he carried not one but two badgers in big canvas holsters on his hip, which is just disturbing, I feel. Who needs two badgers? Is not one badger enough badger for any man?”

Rachel Morton, former editor of Middlebury Magazine: “And what about the girls? He always had several pulchritudinous undergraduates who followed him adoringly to each conference—playing strip poker with him after the rest of his colleagues toddled off to bed. Truly a man of large appetites.”

Paul Pegher, former editor of Denison Magazine: “Ever seen what he can do to a handle of bourbon and a couple bags of pork rinds?”

Matt Jennings, Middlebury Magazine: “And mardi gras beads?”

Nancy Bartosek, The TCU Magazine: “When the Editor’s Forum was in Chicago, we decided we needed to hear live music and crammed into the back of a taxi. We got dropped at a bar where I was annoyed to have to pay a $10 cover. There were only about 50 people there, listening to the some blues/jazz musicians on a tiny stage. We drank some beers and played some pool until this gal got up on stage and started wailing away. Lott lit up. ‘Wow! She sounds just like Shamika Shamekia [that’s an F for misspelling a name, Bartosek—DK] Copeland!’ he said, moving to his own little jazzy boogey-woogey, noting he had all her albums and loved her music. She finished the song and another band member stood and said, ‘Let’s give a big hand for Shamika Shamekia [Bartosek!?!?] Copeland!’ I’ll never forget the look on Lott’s face—shock, amazement then such child-like delight that it almost brought tears to my eyes. Next up? Buddy Guy. It was his place.”

Pegher, again: “Jeff Lott’s name first came on my radar back around 1997-8, when I worked for the tiny Carlow College in Pittsburgh (our mutual hometown)—so tiny that my only access to editors was through the then-fledgling CUE-L. It was around then that Jeff and other statesman of our craft were pushing forth a set of ‘principles of practice,’ seeking wide adoption by CASE. I thought, damn, even if CASE doesn’t want them I’m sure going to work by these standards—they were that informative and inspirational. I was ‘downsized’ by Carlow a year later and did not return to the college magazine world until 2003, but it was my ingrained knowledge of those principles that helped me land a gig at some place called Denison University, where they wanted to take the magazine ‘to the next level.’ A few months into the job I went to a CASE V conference in Chicago, where the savvy and skillful Teresa Scalzo had invited Jeff to speak about the finally-adopted and now-capitalized Principles of Practice for University and College Periodicals Editors. Yup, they still had that same power over me. But Jeff added something else: he described our jobs as ‘keepers of the campus culture.’ And I thought, damn, that is really cool, too! And I took that description to heart and maintain it to this day. Here’s to Jeff, one of the greatest mentors, spiritual leaders, and friends I could have hoped for in a professional life.”

Nicole McKeen, former editor, The Florida Engineer: “This past summer, during my hiatus from editorship, a CUE post caught my attention and I emailed Jeff with my usual snarkiness to get his take. Like a good friend, he was snarky right back. As these exchanges usually go, we began a ‘how are you?’ e-versation. It didn’t take more than my second reply for me to begin shooting pages of emotional diatribe into the Swarthmore email system and Jeff—bless him for this—didn’t say he would love to talk but had a bitch of a deadline or a lunch appointment he had to get to. Instead, he indulged my need to talk to someone. He saw a friend, a colleague, a parent in turmoil, and so very ready to ditch her housecoat for a day or two. He kindly invited me to get away, meet some new folks and witness his very last press check as the editor of Swarthmore College Bulletin. I got to see Matt Jennings, who also happened to be on press that day, and I got to smell the ink and feel the roar of the presses. It’s like editor crack. (The ink and press, that is. Matt’s super cool, but not crack.) But the thing I will remember most about that quick trip north isn’t the incomparable Jeff Lott fussing over the color of red on the back cover, or the gig-a-oodles of laughs we had or the gasoline attendant rubbing aloe all over a shirtless man in a convenience store. It’s the few hours we spent talking about our lives and our children and our struggles and then Jeff Lott, my friend, telling me that everything will be OK. I believe him. I will always be grateful for his friendship. Thank you, Jeff.”

Tom Griffin, former editor of Columns, University of Washington: “I once heard a CASE VP whisper that Jeff Lott was a ‘rabblerouser.’ I’m sure he meant that as a criticism, but I took it then—and still do today—as a grand compliment. God knows there is huge need for rabblerousing in the complacent world of higher education, and Jeff has done that to great effect over the years. Whether it’s putting an image of Andy Warhol in drag on a magazine cover, reporting gleefully on the demise of football at Swarthmore, or ramming a policy on editorial integrity through CASE, Jeff has always pushed the limits. He’s made a lasting impact on his profession—we’re all going to miss his wisdom, humor, and poker cards immensely.”

Lott always likes to get the final word in about anything, and I’ll give him the final word here, to repeat something worth repeating about editing an alumni magazine:

When bad things happen, move on. And yes, bad things will happen. You will publish factual errors, misquote professors, and piss people off. ‘Appalled’ readers will go straight to the top with their complaints, which will rain back down on you from that unfortunate direction. Stories will be spiked by administrators who had previously given them the green light. Writers will fail to turn in their copy on time—or at all—leaving gaping holes in your next issue. Shake it off, look ahead, and keep your wits about you to fight the next battle.

Well said, my friend.

Weekend reading: David Pacchioli

Pennsylvania has the good fortune or misfortune, depending on your perspective, of underground bounty: the Marcellus shale, a rock formation that harbors huge natural gas reserves. Good news, yes? Abundant energy, lots of jobs for Pennsylvanians, major revenue for the state and individual property owners . . . Not so fast. Extraction of the gas locked in the Marcellus rock requires a mining technique called hydraulic fracturing, “fracking” in the vernacular. And fracking creates a lot of problems, according to its critics—poisoned aquifers, toxic waste, people who one day go to the kitchen sink to draw a glass of water and find so much gas coming out of the faucet they can ignite it like a burner on the stove. The extraction industry, backed by Pennsylvania politicians, says these concerns are exaggerated and the state should stand squarely behind progress. It defines progress as drill, drill, drill, frack, frack, frack.

Which is stage setting for an important and commendable story, “Rock and an Old Place” by David Pacchioli, which appeared in the October 2010 Swarthmore College Bulletin and was one of the 2010 CASE gold medal features. Students in Swarthmore’s environmental studies program dug into the fracking issue as a capstone project, which is what made the issue a suitable subject for the magazine. Pacchioli travels to Hop Bottom, a Pennsylvania rural hamlet of 330 people that has been massively affected by drilling for gas in the Marcellus shale. He reports on a farm that has been in the family of Swarthmore alumnus Denise Dennis for seven generations; Dennis and her family now are mightily worried about the farm’s future because many of their neighbors have sold the drilling rights to their properties, which puts the farm right in the middle of a fracking zone. Pacchioli explains the hydraulic fracturing process with admirable clarity, lays out the conflicting interests fairly, and gives voice to people who have a very hard time being heard in the face of well-financed industry PR and lobbying campaigns.

Swarthmore College may be a private school, but that doesn’t mean it can simply ignore the Pennsylvania statehouse or industry groups with deep pockets and political clout. All the more reason to respect the magazine’s publication of Pacchioli’s story.

UMag inbox (hi, remember us?)

The inbox bulgeth. I’ve been overwhelmed the last few weeks, but just back from speaking at the annual conference put on by the fine folks at URMA, the University Research Magazine Association, I can turn my attention to what everybody’s been up to over the last month.

First, a few killer covers. Jonathan Franzen not only graduated from Swarthmore, but taught there, too. Swarthmore College Bulletin‘s April cover features a digital sculpture of Franzen created by Joel and Sharon Harris. “Digital sculpture” feels a bit oxymoronic to me, but there’s no arguing with the results. Jeff Lott is the Swarthmore editor, for a few more months. (No jealousy here about his impending retirement, no, none at all.)

The art works great for the feature spread, too. (click to enlarge)

Another great cover, and continuing impressive work from Endeavors at North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The cover story is “Deathwatch” by Susan Hardy, and the cover begins a list of the names of every person executed in the United States since 1977, plus the names of their victims. The list continues on the story spread. I know from talking to editor Jason Smith at the URMA conference that this cover was born of desperation when the planned cover blew up at the last minute. However desperate the circumstances surrounding it, I think it’s a superb cover.

Finally, one more redo, which is actually a rebirth. MTSU, out of Middle Tennessee State University, ceased print publication with its Fall/Winter 2009 issue. Then the university changed its mind and told the recently hired Drew Ruble, senior editor for university publications, to relaunch the magazine. More on this in a later post, but here’s the cover of the first issue of the reborn MTSU.

More to come. Have a good weekend, and watch tomorrow’s Preakness—it always makes my town look good.