Tag Archives: small magazines

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 What quality control procedures do you use to prevent factual errors, misspelled names, outdated information, and other problems?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

Cooperative Living cover

Small magazines: Cooperative Living

I’m starting a new series about how small magazines get edited. Having worked on a couple of small magazine myself, I’m fascinated by the production of quality publications by a small staff, and as answers began coming from editors of small magazines, I started learning things right away! For example, Cooperative Living, which I thought of as a small magazine, goes to more than half a million people. Well, the magazine feels small and personal, and I mean that as a compliment.

As a member-customer of the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, I’ve been receiving and reading Cooperative Living for almost 20 years. Editor Bill Sherrod kindly took time to answer my questions …

1. Who receives Cooperative Living, and how big is the circulation?

Cooperative Living magazine is published by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC). It’s mailed 10 times annually (monthly, except for combined March/April and November/December issues) to the members of 12 electric cooperatives in Virginia. There are 13 separate versions of Cooperative Living, one for each of the 12 subscribing cooperatives, and one we call the “Virginia” version, mailed to advertisers and non–co-op subscribers and comp-subscription recipients. Total circulation for Cooperative Living is now more than 500,000 per issue and growing by small increments with each issue.

2. How did you become editor of Cooperative Living?

I came to work for the VMDAEC in July 1994 as coordinator of public relations. Because of my newspaper background, I gravitated to the magazine and eventually became a staff member, working as field editor, then managing editor, and becoming editor in 2006.

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

We do editorial planning 12 to 18 months in advance, using story ideas from various sources, such as members (readers) and staff of our subscribing cooperatives, the magazine staff, our national co-op trade association, and our peer statewide co-op publications in other states.

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 What quality control procedures do you use to prevent factual errors, misspelled names, outdated information, and other problems?

It’s incumbent on our professional staff and our freelance writers to deliver accurate information in their stories. Our proofing system includes a minimum of three sets of eyes on each editorial (non-advertising) component of the magazine. We don’t have a dedicated fact-checker, but one of our three proofers checks web addresses, phone numbers, event dates and similar information in each piece. One source of errors is the delay between delivery and publication. We’ve had instances where facts have changed about, for example, a business in a story written several months before publication. To the extent possible, we try to fact-check such situations where detected in the proofing process, but some errors inevitably reach publication. Upside: our readers let us know (in abundance) when such an error occurs, and we usually correct the error with a reader’s observation in our Mailbag (reader letters) section.

5. What do you like most about editing Cooperative Living?

I like working for electric cooperatives, which are small, consumer-owned electric utilities. Because of the co-op business model, service is the ultimate purpose, and that makes the purpose of the job, as well as the work itself, very rewarding.

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

We commission periodic reader surveys (usually every three years) through our national ad-sales cooperative. This research indicates that print magazines (at least, Cooperative Living and our peer statewide electric co-op publications) are holding their value as trusted communications venues. These surveys are intended to gather information to help in display-ad sales, but also provide solid data that show print is thriving in our burgeoning electronic-media atmosphere.

Thanks, Bill!