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Issue for November 2014

Editorial Accomplishments

Posted on Saturday, November 29, 2014 at 8:54 PM

A look at what others have achieved and a suggestion to prompt greater achievement among the rest of us.

By William Dunkerley

What kinds of things are editors accomplishing this year? What have our colleagues set their sights on, and how close are they to achieving their goals?

We asked those questions to a sampling of readers and received some interesting responses.

The Survey Response

Ryan Alford, for example, of Snowshoe Magazine reports that expanding the reach of his content was high on his list. To achieve that goal he set out to broaden his crop of writers. "I've been able to recruit some great writers not only in the United States, but also in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Australia," he says. What's been the result? Ryan points to "a more unique content approach each issue." The payoff has been that his audience clearly "appreciated and responded to the efforts."

At Metropolis magazine, editor-in-chief Susan Szenasy undertook a re-imagining or re-conceptionalization of the New York–based architectural magazine. Metropolis covers, analyzes, and comments on design and architecture. Szenasy says, "Our name has inspired our editorial focus since the magazine was first launched in 1981: the metropolis, the grandest designed object humans have devised." This invites the publication, she explains, "to zoom in on everything from salt shakers to sky scrapers, and their environmental, social, and economic impacts." The re-imagining has included not only the editorial approach, but also a redesign. But, insists Szenasy, the magazine's fundamental DNA will be protected. The relaunch will take place with the December 2014 issue, now just about ready to be sent to the printer.

While changes at Snowshoe and Metropolis involve changing content, the story is different at Powder and Bulk Engineering. There the concern is over the changing of staff. Two editors with considerable expertise in the magazine's subject matter are nearing retirement. The magazine has been an award winner for its technical content, so maintaining that level of excellence is important. Editor Terry O'Neill says that is a "tough job." She is in the process of training two new editors and remarks that there is "so much information to try to transfer!"

Timothy Beardsley, editor-in-chief at the American Institute of Biological Sciences, reports having initiated a partnering arrangement in January 2014 with Oxford Journals. The AIBS peer-reviewed journal BioScience has been in publication since 1964 and is now available online too. Beardsley says, "I am happy to report that the transition to a new publishing partner went very smoothly, and we are now being widely read on the Oxford University Press servers. Our print issues look every bit as good as they did last year, too."

At Pediatric Research, managing editor Stephanie Dean has already achieved two significant accomplishments this year and is looking ahead to her next challenges. On the "already done" list: First is an effort to increase the journal's impact factor. (Impact factor refers to the average number of external citations published to articles appearing in a journal.) Dean reports achieving an "increase in our impact factor based on the July 2014 released IFs." The second achievement is "publishing a significantly larger number of high-quality review articles." Looking ahead, Dean sees her challenges as "(1) exploring publishing options for small nonprofit publishers, (2) evaluating online peer review systems to find which ones are considered best by the majority of users, and (3) increasing the level of interest from our three member societies in terms of readership and authorship."

Setting Goals and Tracking Achievement

Aside from providing a valuable glimpse of the accomplishments of a few fellow editors, our mini-survey also turned up something we all should ponder: Are we sufficiently setting goals for ourselves and measuring achievement?

That question arose when we examined the response rate to this survey. It was relatively low when compared to other surveys we have conducted. I'm sure that many other editors have had accomplishments this year. Some may have been too busy to tell us about them. But I also wonder if some of us are not thinking in terms of goals and achievement?

It is interesting to note that 3 of the 5 responses we received are from editors of technical journals. Are they doing a more diligent job of setting goals and tracking success than the rest of us?

Goal setting is good. It is a process that requires us to look beyond the arduous task of churning out a new package of content for each issue. It is also a process that allows us to fine-tune what we are doing and to adapt our work patterns, our skills, and our publications.

There are revolutionary changes in the editorial business that are being driven by a veritable onslaught of technological innovation that is unprecedented. That places a great demand upon us all to give added focus on keeping ourselves, our staffs, and our publications acclimated to this environment of constant change.

In practical terms this means observing change, setting goals, and tracking achievement.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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Attention-Worthy Books

Posted on Saturday, November 29, 2014 at 8:52 PM

Three recommendations to have on your shelves.

By Peter P. Jacobi

Books have been gathering. Not dust, mind you, but space. And they cry for attention.

A Good Book to Have Around

Working the Story by Douglas Perret Starr and Deborah Williams Dunsford (Rowman & Littlefield) may be a refresher for you, but it also can be something akin to a manual for any newcomer/novice you may have around.

The authors are veteran writers and publicists and teachers. They've put together, as the title page declares, "A Guide to Reporting and News Writing for Journalists and Public Relations Professionals." Their table of contents ranges from "What News Is and Why It's Important" and "How to Gather Information" to "How to Write and Deliver a Briefing" and "Public Relations in a Crisis." There are 32 well-considered chapters, all adding up to a worthy text. Along the way, the reader will discover how to cover speeches, meetings, education, universities, government, industry and labor, crime and courts, science and medicine, religion, and the arts. The reader will find out how to research and interview, and how to write news stories and features and reviews, as well as ghostwrite a CEO's speech.

The information is practical and crisply verbalized. A chapter on "How to Write the Basic News Story" begins: "Writing, which combines artistry, skill, imagination, and professionalism, is the most difficult and demanding task you will ever undertake. Writing demands clarity, conciseness, terseness, and rhythm in the handling of the language. And newswriting demands objectivity in the story and, in the writing, the imagination of a dreamer, the skill of an artist, the accuracy of a mathematician, and the meter of a musician.... If readers do not understand your news story, the entire fault is yours; you did not make the information accurate, clear, concise, terse. And, be careful, your first reader is your editor, your CEO."

I think this is a good book for you to have around. It's basic.

Useful for Nonfiction Editors and Writers

Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children, by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas (Writer's Institute Publications) may not be a basic for you, but I'm always amazed at how many morsels of wisdom I can find in most any book on writing, wisdom as meaningful and helpful for me as for the reader it is actually aimed at.

Facklam and Thomas are award-winning children's book writers; they also happen to be a mother-daughter writing team. They offer solid advice on such matters as "Brainstorming Ideas," "Uncovering Stories" (through research), "The Heart and Voice of Story," "Assembling the Story Skeleton," "Breathing Life into Biographies," "Handling the How-to Genre," and "Strengthening Your True Story."

I find counsels worth taking to heart, like: "A subject may have been written about, but not by you -- not with your ideas, and not from your perspective." And: "The more you write, the more you will begin to relax and settle into your own voice."

In a chapter on research, titled "Uncovering the Bones," I find this opening: "An archaeologist digs through tons of soil, sifting out tiny bone fragments that will tell the story of a past life. Like an archaeologist, a nonfiction writer must sift through thousands of bits of information for just the right facts that will tell the story of an entire civilization, a famous sports figure, an animal's life cycle, or how chewing gum is made, The facts that you uncover become the bones for your body of text, the skeleton that will hold it together."

Further on, the authors quote prominent children's editor Carolyn Yoder, who says, "People should be a big part of research. This means conducting interviews and experiencing the world around you so that you can give your writing color, a distinct voice, and the authority it needs."

In their research, the authors have found nuggets from various sources, such as this list of questions to ask yourself as you listen to a nonfiction manuscript. It comes from a website sponsored by the Northern Ohio chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. It's a great list for you as an editor:

1. Does the introduction grab your attention? Does it make you want to hear more?

2. Do the facts flow in a logical sequence?

3. Do you understand? Does the author present enough facts and examples to make it clear?

4. Does the article have kid appeal? Is it interesting and lively?

5. Does the article keep your interest?

6. Does the writer show the facts or just tell about them by reciting information?

7. Is the writing targeted correctly for a particular age group? Is it too simplistic or too difficult?

8. Do you hear inconsistencies in the information or have unanswered questions?

So, maybe this Anatomy of Nonfiction is not directly meant for you, but it contains much that's useful for any editor or writer of nonfiction. You never know without looking in.

Focus on Personal Writing

If there's an essayist or memoirist in you, look at Phillip Lopate's To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction. It is truly focused toward very personal writing. But Lopate is a beguiling wordsmith, and he passes along thoughts that can echo.

For instance, as he begins to discuss "The State of Nonfiction Today," he writes: "Consider the very name of this practice, defined by what it is not, like the Uncola, the Anti-Christ, or antimatter. In the last 20 years, some attempt has been made to cloak it with dignity by adding the word 'creative' before 'nonfiction,' but this is tantamount to saying 'good poetry.' No one sets out to write uncreative nonfiction. I prefer the more traditional-sounding term literary nonfiction, though I have to admit that 'literary' is also a bit of gratuitous self-praise."

Lopate makes for pleasurable reading, even if he doesn't follow paths directly leading to what we do and where we are. Just thought I'd at least mention the book to you.

Peter P. Jacobi is a Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He is a writing and editing consultant for numerous associations and magazines, speech coach, and workshop leader for various institutions and corporations. He can be reached at 812-334-0063.

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The Fog Index

Posted on Saturday, November 29, 2014 at 8:50 PM

Assessing the readability of a Digiday.com excerpt.

This month, we will calculate the Fog Index of a passage from a recent Digiday.com article ("This Woman Is Hearst Magazines' Secret Weapon" by Lucia Moses).

"Sharing content is another key part of the strategy. Other publishers aggregate news from elsewhere or open their sites to outside contributors to increase their publishing volume quickly and at low cost. With all of Hearst's magazines as well as newspapers to draw from, the publisher has a long way to go before it has to look to outside sources for content. Part of Lewis' mandate, then, has been getting Hearst to surface stories that can work across brands. Ultimately, the goal is to have 20 percent of a given Hearst site's content coming from another Hearst property."

--Word count: 98 words
--Average sentence length: 20 words (9, 23, 30, 17, 19)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 9 percent (9/98 words)
--Fog Index: (20+9)*.4 = 11 (no rounding)

We've hit upon an excerpt whose Fog Index falls within the ideal range. Still, perhaps we can do something to shave another point or two from the total.

"Sharing content is another key part of the strategy. Other publishers collect news from elsewhere or open their sites to outside contributors to increase their publishing volume quickly and cheaply. With all of Hearst's magazines, as well as its newspapers, to draw from, the publisher has a long way to go before it needs outside sources for content. Part of Lewis' mandate, then, has been getting Hearst to surface stories that can work across brands. The ultimate goal is to have 20 percent of a given Hearst site's content coming from other Hearst assets."

--Word count: 94 words
--Average sentence length: 19 words (9, 21, 28, 17, 19)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 7 percent (7/94 words)
--Fog Index: (19+7)*.4 = 10 (no rounding)

Sure enough, we were able to reduce the Fog score by one point with a few minor changes. We didn't want to reinvent the wheel when the excerpt was already quite clear and easy to read. Still, we eliminated a few longer words and made a few other tweaks to cut through a little more fog.

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Digging into Editorial Archives

Posted on Saturday, November 29, 2014 at 8:49 PM

In the news: Folio's Michael Rondon explores how iconic magazine brands are putting older content to work.

Earlier this month, TIME launched The Vault, an online archive of its vintage content. According to the website, "TIME's new digital archive allows subscribers not only to read [older] stories, but also the experience of flipping through the physical magazine, showing the graphics, pictures and advertisements that accompanied every TIME magazine story, dating back to the first issue in 1923."

Other brands that have monetized their archives include Scientific American, The Atlantic, and Vogue. Subscription prices tend to be steep: Scientific American's archive access runs readers $75 per year more than a regular print subscription, and Vogue is charging a hefty $1,575 for unlimited access to its archives -- which, according to Foliomag.com, includes "425,000 images, 300,000 ads and 100,000 articles."

Read more here.

Also Notable

Rethinking the Editor-Publisher Relationship

A vital tenet of content delivery is drawing a clear line in the sand between advertising and editorial content. When the line is blurred, readers lose confidence in the brand and may take their subscriber dollars elsewhere. In a recent PBS Mediashift piece, Jason Kint writes, "Questions revolve around concerns about consumers' ability to distinguish editorial from advertising content, whether they understand an ad is not necessarily an editorial endorsement, and what happens if they lose faith in the content publishers work so hard to produce." Now that native advertising is so popular, some brands have tested boundaries by engaging in deceptive content delivery practices to garner clicks. "In this new reality," Kint says, "it's not the re-building of a crumbled wall between editor and publisher that's needed but the raising of a new kind of wall, one which separates click-bait from bona fide content." Read the full discussion here.

CNET in Print

Popular tech website CNET is reinventing how it delivers tech analysis and reviews. The magazine is launching a quarterly print magazine that will feature fresh editorial content not available on its website. CNET magazine will be CBS Corporation's second print magazine (the first being the bimonthly Watch magazine). Read more about CNET's move toward print and planned articles for the first issue here.

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