Student-developed magazine makes science fun

Amanda Laabs

Sci Q magazine is trying to make science cool again.

The magazine, a onetime project of 14 Medill graduate students, was created during Fall Quarter as part of the Magazine Publishing Project, a class where students research, write, edit and publish a magazine in 12 weeks.

Sci Q boasts editorial content that provides the reader with a complete guide to anti-alien headgear, verification of how watching sports can boost brainpower and an exploration of the Bigfoot brouhaha.

The publication was devised as a hip, culturally savvy science and technology magazine targeted at 25- to 44-year-old males. Sci Q attempts to do what hasn’t yet been done by traditional science magazines, including Popular Science and Scientific American.

“We wanted to take a fresh look at something that’s been done the same way for so long,” said former Medill graduate student Jennifer Freeman, student publisher of Sci Q.

Somewhat of a divergence from previous Medill magazine projects, Sci Q stands out because of its unpredictable story selection, irreverent tone and playfulness toward science, said the magazine’s editorial director and Medill professor David Standish.

Students were challenged to think in terms of an entire brand, a task that project director and Medill professor Patti Wolter said they were able to accomplish.

“They really were able to translate the idea of the magazine in a fantastic and original way,” she said. “Not just in print, but also on their Web site.”

Students were responsible for all necessary aspects for the launch of a magazine, including marketing, advertising, circulation and business strategies.

“You really realize that it just doesn’t take good writers to make a good magazine,” Freeman said. “It takes a solid business plan.”

The Magazine Publishing Project is a class that runs five days a week and technically eight hours a day, though students often put in more time than that.

“There were nights when we were there until 2, 3 a.m.,” said editor-in-chief and Medill graduate student Aranya Tomseth. “We packed a year-and-a-half of work into 12 weeks. It was the toughest experience of my life.”

Freeman, who chose to attend Medill specifically for this project, said the experience was invaluable.

“I know what it takes to get out there and start a magazine,” she said. “You won’t get that anywhere else.”

The walls of Fisk Hall’s room 206 are papered with numerous collegiate journalism awards given to different magazines produced in the project, which began in 1981 and is highly regarded across the nation, Standish said.

“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work,” he said. “These students aren’t so much graduates of the Publishing Project; they’re more like survivors.”

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