The only student publication read or at least scanned by a large number of students at Harvard is the Crimson. There are, of course, literary magazines, humorous magazines, magazines for the social sciences, drama reviews, semi-professional magazines, and assorted newsletters. Some of these publications, both good and bad ones, are deliberately aimed at limited audiences. The ones which aspire to universality, however, tend to suffer from inconsistent writing, unimaginative editing, or lack of funds. A daily newspaper with these shortcomings will probably still be scanned. But a college magazine can't get away with mediocrity.
The situation was similar at Yale, until this fall. Two seniors quit the Yale Daily News to begin publishing The New Journal, a bi-weekly blend of solid reporting, lively literary criticism, fiction and photography. The writing is consistently good and often superb; everything from book reviewing to reporting on the Pentagon demonstration is approached from a fresh angle.
In a review of M. by John Sack '51 (that's Harvard '51), for example, reviewer Gerald Bruck does not settle for an analysis of this eyewitness account of the training, traveling and first Vietnam battle of a marine company. He interviews the author, and finds that Sack reported and wrote the entire thing without really knowing how he felt about the war. He decided four months after returning to the United States that he opposed it. Bruck's extra effort turned into some interesting copy.
There is just enough Yaleness in the Journal to keep it from being simply a magazine published in New Haven, but not so much as to render it dull to outsiders (or even Yalies). The first issue, for example, has Bruck's review, an informative piece on New Haven Mayor Richard Lee's years in office; a profile of actor-director Kenneth Haigh who is now in the Yale Drama School's Repertory Company; a short story by a Yale senior; and a vignette of a Yale undergraduate who makes movies instead of attending classes.
The Journal has since presented the tale of Fat Bernie, a 225-pounder who makes $30,000 a year selling bits of gossip to New York entertainment columnists. If Bernie can't find it, he fabricates it. It has run one man's look at the sterility of the Yale graduate school, in which the student "is deprived by his life style of the use of his senses . . . reading mile after mile of the printed line." It has told--in the hour-by-hour style of Jim Bishop's The Day Lincoln Was Shot--the exciting story of Lady Bird Johnson's visit to Yale and how the students battled about what kind of protest to offer.
The only short story the Journal has run, "Dumaran," is the magazine's weakest piece. In this story of a young man who learns of his younger brother's death and flies across the country for his funeral, we are faced with superficial types--the drunken priest, the innocent young boy. Dumaran flips jabs at the Peace Corps, American Airlines, religion and a few others, but the satire fails because the characters are not believable.
The journalistic writing, however, has been spectular. In the Lady Bird chronicle, by co-editor Daniel Yergin and Mopsey Strange Kennedy, one sees both the smooth professional flow of events as the First Lady's entourage prepares for her visit and the rough frustration of Yale students bickering about how to show the university and the woman that they don't like what she stands for.
During Lady Bird's speech on beautification to a closed audience, her press secretary moved from table to table suggesting, "I'd like to see a standing ovation." Outside, meanwhile, 1200 students were holding a 10-minute silent demonstration, when suddenly a record-player blared in a nearby dorm room window.
For a moment, it seemed that the silence might disintegrate, people began to turn; but then, as though they had resolved as a single body, everybody decided to ignore the music and turn back to the silence.
In its most recent issue, The New Journal introduced a genre which it calls a magazine "screenplay." Thirty-eight little photographs are spread over four Journal pages, with the text of a one-act farce interspersed, so that when we read: "Three toes! Count 'em! Three toes the guy's got missing!", we see a man on his knees holding up three fingers and peering at a foot that juts into the photograph. Or when the businessman who happens to have his foot stuck in the sidewalk says to himself, in Oral Roberts style, "Take up thy foot and WALK!", we see a "Walk" traffic signal against a skyscraper background. All of which is more clever than profound, but fun nonetheless.
While the layout of the Journal is sometimes repetitious and unexciting, the editors make good use of white space to avoid clutter. And because of the high-quality paper, photographs, which are excellent to begin with, reproduce well.
It is inevitable when reading this fine magazine to ask, "Why hasn't anyone at Harvard done it?" One answer could be money, a problem which plagues several of Harvard's existing publications. The Journal keeps going on a large grant from an anonymous alumnus.
The Journal is distributed free, and is now beginning to develop some advertising revenue. Co-editor Bruck said that it certainly has enough money to publish for the rest of this year, at least.
While I'm waiting for Harvard's anonymous alumnus, I'll read every issue out of New Haven.
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