Potash Hill cover

Small magazines: Potash Hill

Potash Hill is the magazine of Marlboro College in Marlboro, Vermont. It’s published twice a year, and it’s named after the hill where the college was founded in 1946. “Students and faculty at Marlboro no longer make potash” (potassium carbonate), as the masthead drily notes, “but they are industrious in their own way.” My son John graduated from Marlboro College ten years ago, and I always enjoy reading Potash Hill. Editor Philip Johansson kindly answered my questions about publishing the magazine.

1. Who receives Potash Hill, and how big is the circulation?

Potash Hill goes to Marlboro College alumni (now including alumni of graduate programs), families, prospective students, and other supporters of the college. We send out about 5100, and print out an extra 500 for folks on campus. We send another 800 digital versions to people who request digital only, which is available in html and pdf.

2. How did you become editor of Potash Hill?

I have lived in Marlboro for almost 30 years and always had an interest in the college. I got the job as Potash Hill editor seven years ago, after ten years of writing and editing for Earthwatch Institute, outside Boston—my background is in science writing. As the only writer/editor on campus, I also create content for the website, brochures, letters, and other purposes.

3. Where do you get the content for the magazine?

The features are submitted by Marlboro students, faculty, or alumni, usually with a fair bit of cajoling from me. They often require a lot of editing as well, for length or accessibility, and this I undertake with the consent and approval of the author, sometimes taking several drafts. Other more news-related stories or profiles I mostly write, with occasional contributions by a student on our staff (when they can be found).

4. What quality control procedures do you use to prevent factual errors, misspelled names, outdated information, and other problems?

We have an excellent copy editor and proofreader, who works for us on a contractual basis and is very familiar with our style guide. She is forever catching contradictory statements, misspelled names, and grammatical snafus. Representatives from marketing and alumni relations go over most of it for factual errors, at least so far as the college and its alumni are concerned. Of course I look over it again and again as well, but it reaches a point where I’ve seen it so many times I could easily miss errors.

5. What do you like most about editing Potash Hill?

I love learning about what all the Marlboro students are doing for their Plan of Concentration, a culminating scholarly project that occupies their last two years. They are all amazingly original and thought-provoking, and they make me very inspired to share their stories. I am learning new things all the time, from physics to philosophy.

6. What else would you like readers and other editors to know?

Potash Hill was thrilled to win a bronze award for “Best Writing“ from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), for magazines with a circulation under 25,000. We came in behind Brown University (for their medicine magazine) and Tufts University (for their dental medicine magazine), so we were in good company. Considering we have only one editor and writer, and and a complete marketing team of only three, I think it’s fair to say we achieved the award with far fewer resources than Brown or Tufts. The irony is that we submitted Potash Hill because we had just spent a year redesigning and reformatting the publication, but what we drew attention for was our good writing.

Thanks, Philip!

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