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College Report

Rough ride for student rags

It’s been a turbulent year for student-run publications, with a new journal forming and old ones struggling to stay in print.

Campus newspapers have faced a second round of hard times, after financial troubles in 2002–03. The Maroon, suffering low ad revenues, shrunk its per-issue page count from 20 to 12 and terminated its quarterly literary issue, the Chicago Literary Review. The Maroon’s 9-year-old rival, the Chicago Weekly News, ceased publication for a quarter in October 2002, returning the next January as the Chicago Weekly—eight pages surrounding alternative paper Newcity, published by Brian J. Hieggelke, AB’83, MBA’84, and Jan Hieggelke, AB’85.

Now motivation rather than money is the problem. In mid-January an e-mail circulated on campus claiming that the Chicago Weekly would fold unless it found new writers within a week. The message, sent by an Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Organizations assistant, was not authorized by CW staff, and in the January 27 Maroon executive editor Amy Conners denied the paper’s pending demise, although only two people were “writing it and doing everything,” she said. Dropping the “News” from its title may have assured CW’s survival: in March it moved to attract staff writers by relegating news items to a front-page sidebar and filling out the paper with feature articles, cultural criticism, editorials, and an advice column.

The Maroon also has felt its writers pull away from editing and news reporting, discouraged by the time commitment—often more than 20 hours per week, says Yoshi Salaverry, a former editor. In the Maroon’s February election, rising fourth-year Garth Johnston for editor in chief and rising third-year Laura Oppenheimer for managing editor ran uncontested, a rare occurrence. News editor Art Kimball-Stanley admits the Maroon faces a recruiting problem. “I do find it surprising that there are so few people who want to get involved in news.” In contrast the Maroon’s cultural criticism and op-ed sections, he says, “always have writers.” As it searches for reporters the paper has bolstered its pages with a photography section—a full-page spread of color photos by students.

Less news-oriented publications also have struggled for writing talent. The Criterion, “a journal of conservative thought,” saw four of its five staffers graduate last spring. This fall the remaining editor, Daniel Sullivan, a fourth-year history and fundamentals concentrator, had to assemble a new staff. He strove to fill pages every month without resorting to overtly partisan writers. “Help Dan,” read a call for new staff members in the April 2003 issue. “Or else he’ll have to go to the real conservatives.”

Sullivan has kept the Criterion’s irreverent personality intact by assembling a staff of eight friends and well-wishers, still avoiding polemics with a classicist perspective. Its February issue on American imperialism mostly disapproved of U.S. foreign policy since 9/11, ominously referencing the historical fates of Rome and Athens. But come spring the Criterion will face last year’s dilemma: nearly all of its editors are graduating.

On the apolitical end of the spectrum sits Euphony, the youngest campus literary journal, founded in spring 2000. One of its many advertising flyers sticks Waterhouse’s romantic painting of Venus and Adonis with the caption: “NOT GOING TO HAPPEN: Euphony is as close as you’ll get.” The magazine rejects most student submissions in favor of fiction, poetry, and criticism from outside the University. Euphony’s winter issue was delayed by a paucity of worthy submissions and the retirements of exhausted editors (including the writer of this article). The issue finally came out February 27, and third-year Jesse Raber assumed editorship with a staff of mostly first-years. “Now the important thing is to continue attracting new people,” Raber said, “and to give them a sense of what the magazine has been and what it is supposed to be.”

As Euphony and others scrape by, a new journal hits the stands this month: the Chicago Scholarly Review, publishing academic works from humanities and social-science undergrads. The founders, fourth-year English concentrators Margaret Ryznar and Natalie Brown, saw a hole in the campus publication scene. “I was very surprised,” said Ryznar, “that the U of C, so renowned for its research prowess, failed to provide its undergraduates an arena for publishing and sharing their academic work.” The CSR’s editorial board solicits writing with flyers, then helps contributors to shape their work into MLA-style research papers.

Riding a wave of anticipation, the CSR has avoided the troubles that plague other publications. It won funding from Student Government as its staff meetings drew 20 participants. And with 70 submissions in its first months, it wasn’t hurting for material. The seven articles in its inaugural issue range from studies of genocide in Rwanda and Japanese women’s desires to analyses of Kafka, Ovid, and Kierkegaard.—J.N.L.


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