We won’t be printing the spring issue of Middlebury Magazine.
That wasn’t a pleasant sentence to write, but it was a necessary one.
A scan of our archives reveals that the magazine has printed on a quarterly basis, uninterrupted, since its founding in 1927. But this world that we’re living in right now has little precedent, the closest being during the 1918 influenza pandemic, when the global spread of an insidious disease was made possible by mass troop movements in a world war. (Today, a couple of transatlantic flights were probably all it took to place us here, in the Age of COVID-19.)
On March 10, Middlebury announced that it would be sending students home a week before the scheduled spring break and would resume classes on a remote basis. It seems like an eternity ago, really, considering all that has occurred in the world since then, but at that time such a prescient move was also unprecedented for Middlebury.
We were about a month away from shipping files to the printer, so there was still time to rethink and adjust, if necessary, what we would publish. But it was immediately evident that we’d need to do something we’d never done before, and that was hitting pause on our print publication.
We knew there would be financial implications for the institution, once the decision was made to send students home and move to remote teaching and learning. Expected revenue would be lost (prorated room-and-board refunds, for example) and unexpected expenditures would arise. In a time of acute crisis, printing and mailing a magazine to 50,000 people would be a financial luxury that we couldn’t afford.
Just recently, David Provost, Middlebury’s executive vice president for finance and administration, wrote a detailed memo to the community outlining the financial impact of COVID-19 on Middlebury. In it, he succinctly stated, “While we start from a position of strength, I must emphasize that this does not mean we will be back to business as usual anytime soon. The degree of disruption to our Middlebury operations is simply too great, as we are witnessing in all of higher education and in virtually all sectors of the national and global economies. There is no way to downplay the impact that the pandemic will have on our institution.”
But what we haven’t stopped doing is pursuing, reporting, and publishing stories; if anything, as our new Dispatches channel demonstrates, our metabolism has sped up.
In addition to these shorter pieces and new multimedia efforts, we will be publishing several longform stories in the coming days and weeks. Some of them we were planning to print in our spring edition; others were conceived more recently.
We will also be making class notes available to download; watch this space for instructions on how to do so.
Storytelling has never been more in demand. We need stories to comprehend the world as it exists, and we need stories to help us step away, if only momentarily, from the daily deluge of a populace in crisis. We plan on delivering it all, reflected through a Middlebury lens, in pixels right now, if not on paper.
And when the day comes—hopefully sooner rather than later—that it is again prudent and possible to deliver to you a beautiful, printed, and bound magazine of Middlebury stories, we so can’t wait to provide it for you.