A look inside the making of the latest issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism
Sara Harowitz is the editor of the Summer 2012 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism, which will be launched April 5 at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. Here, she talks about what it was like heading the masthead of an esteemed student-published journalism magazine and what we can look forward to in the upcoming issue.
For me, the moment came during one of our many display-writing meetings. I was sitting at the head of the table, pen in hand, staring at the white board along with the rest of the Ryerson Review of Journalism Summer 2012 team. Our display consultant, Steven Trumper, sat at the other end of the table, shooting ideas at us (he’s a genius, that man). As I sat there, sprawled across a series of chairs, I couldn’t help but think to myself: This is it. This is the stuff. And by “the stuff,” I mean: What I want to do for the rest of my life. It was a cheesy, nerdy, rather embarrassing internal moment, but it sticks with me.
When I was in third year I remember arguing with myself over whether I should take part in the student-run Review or if I should find an internship. (In Ryerson’s journalism program, fourth-year students must choose one or the other.) In the end I came to the conclusion that the Review was where I should be, and I’m so thankful that I did.
I’m editor of the Summer 2012 issue, a position I decided I wanted for its challenge and its vulnerability. I knew it would be a difficult leadership position, and I knew that if things went wrong—whether or not they directly correlated to me—I would be the first to blame. But I liked the idea of that pressure and that test.
I wasn’t, though, the editor in the traditional sense. That is, I didn’t have an almighty power (the Review is a largely collaborative process between everyone on the masthead) and I didn’t actually have to approve or disapprove of any stories (our instructor, the incomparable Lynn Cunningham, did that). My job was more to be team cheerleader and chief worrier and obsessive organizer.
Walking the line between classmate and team leader was hard at first. I never wanted anyone to feel like I was acting above them or trying to boss them around, because these people are my equals and my friends. But at the same time, it was my job to keep things running smoothly, to keep everyone on track, and most of all, to keep spirits high (my answer to that last point most often started with a box of cookies). The experience was tough, and there were definitely times I had to crack down. But by and large I found my job as editor to be incredibly enjoyable.
Students and teachers from previous mastheads consistently tried to brace me for the hell I was about to endure during production of the magazine, but such torture never came. Sure, we all got tired, and sure, the days were long and arduous. But the team we had (19 students in total) made it enjoyable, fast-paced, and, dare I say it, even fun. I obviously had no other masthead to compare it to, but I felt truly lucky to have the team that I had. Everyone was passionate about magazines, eager to learn, and quick to offer help. So really, I’m not surprised that the issue turned out as well as it did (ahem, not to toot our own horn too loud).
To start with, all of our features are thoughtful, well written, and interesting. The Summer 2012 issue presents an array of topics surrounding Canadian journalism, from profiles of people and publications to issues like reporters’ ethics and news for kids. We put a lot of time into writing, fact-checking, copyediting, proofing, and re-proofing these stories, and I think it shows. The layouts, done by Tim Davin, are fantastic, as is all of the art that corresponds to each feature. We spent a lot of time discussing our cover, what it should look like, and what we wanted it to represent. In the end, it became clear that the picture of Lovely Avelus was the only way to go. Not only is the photograph itself extremely compelling, but the story behind it is one worth sharing. The feature discusses the ethical line that every journalist has to draw: when am I an objective reporter who watches from the sidelines and when am I a humanitarian who gets involved in the lives of my subjects? Our article does not so much answer the question for you as it does give you all the tools to answer it for yourself.
Looking back, I know that working on the Review was the right choice for me. I learned a ton about the magazine industry and how much work goes into the production of each issue, and I gained a greater respect for the people who do that work. The experience has been invaluable, enriching my wealth both as a writer and an editor.
If you’re curious about the Review—or are already a supporter—and live in Toronto, please come to our launch party on Thursday, April 5 at the Gladstone Hotel ballroom. The event starts at 5:30 and will last well into the evening, during which my coworkers and I will be celebrating our achievements and dreaming about what’s to come (we all graduate in June). In any case, I hope that you check out our website, www.rrj.ca, and pick up a copy of the Summer 2012 issue, which will hit newsstands across the country in the days following the launch. Thank-you in advance for your support; it means the world to us that people actually care about our publication.
I look forward, now that the issue is finally done and printed, to showing it to you, the working journalists, because I think it shows the kind of talent and passion that my generation has for this craft. I hope that the Summer 2012 issue proves that when my generation inherits the Canadian journalism industry—when it’s us reading J-Source and finding out what the young, bright-eyed kids at the Review are up to—we’ll take good care of it.