Today we’re launching a new channel that we’re calling “Dispatches” here on our digital version of Middlebury Magazine, and I’d love to tell you a few things about it, beginning with a brief story about how we arrived at this moment.
About a year ago, I presented a workshop titled “The Magazine Evolution” at a conference for higher ed editorial and design professionals. At the heart of the session was a call for innovation: “A printed magazine remains an invaluable tool in our editorial and design arsenal. But a magazine can no longer be solely defined as words and images printed on paper that is sequenced and bound. Our world is evolving to include digital storytelling and video shorts and podcasts; feature documentaries and social media campaigns and live events. No one can do it all, but each medium should be considered if we want to maximize our storytelling efforts.”
Part of the process of crafting the session was a good deal of self-reflection—at what stage were we, Middlebury Magazine, in this evolution?
The print edition of our magazine has existed since 1927 and has earned a reputation as one of the finest in the land. The challenge, of course, is to continue to innovate in print, as well, but I think we’re in a good place in that (invaluable) medium.
We upgraded our digital presence a few years ago, adopting a more visually appealing design and embracing an ethos of intentionality when it came to content: we wanted a standard of excellence when it came to digital content, the same standard we hold ourselves to in print; if a digital solution didn’t meet that standard, we wouldn’t shoehorn it in. This is why some of our favorite facets of the print magazine—our one-page Short Story cartoon, our whimsical Map spread—have yet to find a home online. (But we’re working on it.)
This also meant that there was space in the digital realm to expand the magazine’s storytelling efforts. Building on the video content that we were already creating, we produced our first documentary short film, Carol Street, which has subsequently been screened at multiple film festivals. Last fall, we launched our first podcast, Midd Moment, with President Laurie Patton. We’re thrilled to announce a special season, Midd Moment: Alone Together, which launches this month. And we have more podcasts and films in the works—not to mention all of the essays and narrative features you’ve come to expect from our print and digital publications.
But as I reflected on our own magazine evolution during the past year, I became convinced that something was missing. And that was coverage of the greater Middlebury community in real time. We recognized that while there are plenty of places for people to get news about Middlebury, we could do what we do best: tell the stories of Middlebury, and all of its people and places.
So “Dispatches” will attempt to do just that. Each week we’ll be producing vignettes, conversations, reportage from Middlebury outposts around the world, video shorts. And while I’ve written nearly 500 words before explicitly addressing the world we are now living in, “Dispatches” will be attuned to this Age of Covid. We hope to bring you Middlebury stories from the front lines of the pandemic, from people who have their own tales to tell, but we also hope to offer you pleasant diversions, opportunities to step out of the moment and enjoy a “Dispatch” that only we could tell.
Let us know what you think.