Results tagged “publishing” from ARTicles

A year ago, Julie Lasky left the world of glossy design magazines to edit a new, nonprofit, online publication called Change Observer. Dedicated to covering design as social innovation, it's funded by a Rockefeller Foundation grant and launched last July as one of three "channels" of Design Observer. The move marks a significant shift for Lasky, the former editor-in-chief of Interiors and, most recently, I.D., which folded late last year. A 1995-96 NAJP fellow, she spoke by phone about her new venture. This is an edited version of the interview.

julie's_portrait.jpg

In the popular perception, design is associated with luxury, not necessity, let alone politics and social innovation. But Change Observer is explicitly focused on "design strategies aimed globally at improving health, education, housing, and the environment" -- which seems very different from what you were doing at I.D. and Interiors. So is that part of the appeal to you as an editor?

Well, I think that one of the problems, as you say, is it is the public's perception that design is associated with luxury. But, you know, I never thought of design as just simply being an activity to produce consumer objects, and I think both Interiors and I.D. reflected that. So, for instance, we did an entire package of stories related to China, just before the Beijing Olympics, but those stories really went into how do you fashion a vocabulary for what design is bringing to China, and the new developments of design in business in China. Or there was a journal about an industrial designer, trying to navigate his way through the whole system of having things produced, with all the qualms about production in China. So, you know, I don't feel like I ever really stepped away from a mission. I just kind of got a little bit more focused.

March 17, 2010 12:00 AM |

When a publication lays off a batch of key employees, the editor has to say something in an attempt to soothe the staffers who remain. Still, as reassurances go, "Today's changes won't be noticed by readers" is unlikely to pass muster. That's what editor Tim Gray told the survivors at troubled Variety yesterday after he laid off chief film critic Todd McCarthy, chief theater critic David Rooney, film critic Derek Elley and "features editor/indie film reporter Sharon Swart, along with several copy and design desk employees," according to TheWrap.

Even if the three critics take Gray up on his offer to let them continue as freelancers, there's no question that readers will notice the difference. Using what has become boilerplate language for media industry budget cutters, Gray told survivors in a memo, "Our goal is the same: To maintain, or improve, our quality coverage." A laudable ambition, but firing people is a thoroughly unrealistic way of attempting to reach it, as editors and publishers well know. What's remarkable is that, as long as they're dealing in fantasy, they don't come up with better talking points.

The issue is not solely one of skilled, experienced critics being cut loose -- though McCarthy, a 31-year veteran of Variety, speaks eloquently to that in an interview with Sharon Waxman. There's also the matter of what happens behind the scenes. Newspapers never have had fact-checkers as such, but good editors and copy editors serve that function, and they've saved many a writer's butt from inaccuracies, inadvertently libelous statements, and general sloppiness. Of course, it helps immensely when those editors know the writers, and therefore know what to look out for. With fewer editors, and freelancers rather than staff writers, the holes in the safety net get larger, and the publication suffers. That can get expensive. For a current case study from a related industry, see publishing's "The Last Train From Hiroshima" debacle.

March 9, 2010 9:44 AM |


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