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Two Student Magazines Emerging

Undergraduate entrepreneurs see a journalistic niche


The staff of BU Quad, a new student-run online magazine, discuss upcoming stories. Photo by Devon Maloney (COM’11)

Four BU undergrads were puzzled when they arrived at one of the top communication schools in the country to find one form of publication mysteriously absent: a student magazine.

Perhaps they shouldn’t have been surprised. According to CNN, which cited Paper Cuts, a Web site that tracks the newspaper industry, at least 120 print publications in the United States have folded since January of last year. But knowing that harsh fact hasn’t stopped these students from trying to bring two new journalistic entities to life.

One made its debut early this month, abandoning the original idea of print to go online. The second is scheduled to appear in December.

BU’s only Quad
“It’s a crime,” Lauren Hockenson (COM’11) said to a handful of friends during a weekend excursion to New York City last year — a journalistic crime, at any rate: at a university where more than 100 undergraduates are concentrating on magazine journalism, there is no independent student-run magazine.

That’s when Hockenson’s friend Meggie Cramer (COM’11) proposed a simple solution — create one.

Cramer’s suggestion blossomed into the BU Quad. Originally intended to be a print magazine, BU Quad found out what many publications around the country have learned the painful way — printing is simply too expensive.

“The money we would have needed to print the magazine was astronomical,” Hockenson says, and although Micha Sabovik, assistant dean for student services at the College of Communication, loved the business plan they presented to her in June, she told the students that COM had no funds to spare to get Quad on a press.

Hockenson and Cramer were disappointed, but they took a step back and came to a realization: an online magazine costs virtually nothing to publish and reaches a potentially infinite readership, two advantages that are impossible with a print version. The Quad launched in electronic form on October 5.

Inspired by online student magazine forerunners like NYU Local, Hockenson and Cramer enlisted freelance Web designer Gabriel Stein (CAS’11), as well as a staff of 22 writers who they felt shared their vision. The team now meets weekly to pitch stories and plan the next editions.

"BU is very disconnected. Everyone here is so passionate and does great work, but the word never quite gets out about it," says Hockenson, sole editor-in-chief (Cramer will be in charge of creative submissions when she returns from studying abroad in Australia). "The Quad talks about BU issues, but it also showcases and highlights what’s so interesting about the students here."

Each biweekly issue of the online mag features six to eight articles, with topics from literature and music to science and politics, as well as creative submissions. Any BU student is welcome to submit.

According to Hockenson, since the first issue was published, at midnight on October 5, the site has generated more than 12,000 hits, with more than 350 readers subscribing to the Quad’s Facebook, RSS, and Twitter feeds. The second issue, released October 19, contains spotlights on BU musicians, an editorial about racy Halloween costumes, and coverage of the Hatch Awards, an annual ceremony recognizing excellence in advertising in New England, which took place in Boston this year.

“In my wildest dreams, I hope the Quad is an institution we can pass on to future students who share the same passionate viewpoints as the students we have now,” Hockenson says. “I’m very proud of what we’ve created.”

Allie Vasilakis (COM’11) (left), and Marisa Morrison (COM’11) prepared a mock up of their new magazine The Buzz last semester to show potential advertisers. Photo by Brendan Gauthier (COM’11)

Creating a Buzz
Marisa Morrison grew up reading magazines like Girl’s Life and American Girl Magazine. “When I read Teen Vogue for the first time,” she remembers, “I flipped through it and knew that this is exactly what I wanted to do.”

Morrison (COM’11), a magazine journalism major, has teamed up with Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority sister and fellow magazine journalism major Allie Vasilakis (COM’11) to plan the launch of The Buzz, which would become BU’s only print student lifestyle magazine.

Scheduled to debut this December, The Buzz will offer a look at goings on around BU and Boston, featuring six sections: Fashion, Food, Music, Arts & Entertainment, City Guide, and News.

“It highlights things in the city of Boston that would appeal to BU students,” Morrison says. “At the same time, we want to use it as an outlet for other Boston University student groups, to showcase what they’ve been up to.

“I applied for early decision to BU because I loved that there was a magazine journalism major,” she says. But she discovered the University lacked an outlet for her interests. Vasilakis was similarly disappointed.

So last fall, the ambitious magazine junkies began their project. They recruited from COM and beyond; BU students make up the entire current staff, from writers and editors to photographers and models.

Students also comprise the advertising team, currently trying to sell space in the inaugural issue. Potential advertisers are local restaurants and retailers that cater to BU students, as well as businesses that fall under the six categories the magazine has planned.

“We received some money from the Student Allocations Board that will help us print our first issue,” Vasilakis says, “but after that, we are going to have to run strictly on ads.”

To make sure they can print using ad revenue alone, the coeditors decided to print The Buzz in South Korea, dodging pricier domestic printing rates. They e-mail PDF versions of magazine pages to the printer, which compiles the magazines.

The upcoming issue will have a run of around 2,000 copies, at a newsstand price yet to be determined. While advertising revenue must carry expenses, Vasilakis fears that if the magazine is free, their hard work will end up in the garbage can.

“I feel like if we charge a small fee, then it will be more regulated,” she says. “It will be for people who actually want to read it.”

The two spent last semester preparing for a fall debut by putting together a mock issue, working through the nuts and bolts without a definite publishing date and preparing a version to show potential advertisers.

They’re also bringing some industry experience to the table: Vasilakis interned last summer in the beauty department at Glamour, where she participated in product focus groups, researched sartorial trends, and communicated with public relations firms. “I feel like you learn so much from doing something like this,” she says. “It’s really hands-on experience.”

Morrison had a similar internship at Teen Vogue, where she worked in the fashion department, trafficking fashion samples and prepping photo shoots.

Using their behind-the-scenes knowledge, Morrison and Vasilakis want to build a legacy. They say that by the time they graduate, they hope to have a confident staff that will inherit a successful publication.

“I don’t know if I’ll cry more when the first issue is printed, or when the 30th issue is printed,” says Morrison.

More information about the Quad is available here. Reach the Buzz team at the.bu.buzz@gmail.com.

Devon Maloney can be reached at devon.maloney@gmail.com. Brendan Gauthier can be reached at btgauth@gmail.com.


7 Comments on Two Student Magazines Emerging

  • Anonymous on 10.26.2009 at 9:14 am

    this is exciting! The quad has already been great, looking forward to the BUZZ as well!

  • Roberta Lash on 10.26.2009 at 1:02 pm

    Great article

    I am will not be surprised by the future success of this publication. Marisa has an extraordinary journalistic talent that is way beyond her years. Her intuitive fashion sense and wonderful writing style will contribute to making this publication very attractive to readers. Congratulations!

  • Anonymous on 10.26.2009 at 3:35 pm

    I’m excited for both ventures! I am a 2002 BU grad and wish a magazine as they described existed when I experienced Boston.

  • Anonymous on 10.26.2009 at 3:48 pm

    The Quad

    It’s exciting to see students taking on big projects like this. The Quad is wonderfully entertaining and well-designed. Congrats!

  • Anonymous on 10.26.2009 at 10:53 pm

    wow this is amazing!

    im actually so impressed with these students. cant wait for this magazine to be printed. its about time someone did this. such an amazing idea!

  • Anonymous on 10.27.2009 at 1:08 am

    "No money?"

    No money for printing, huh? Wow!!! Where is our $50,000 a year tuition going that BU can’t give some money for printing. Universities aren’t institutions of learning, they’ve become big business corporations. Such a racket. It is the game we have to play in this world. Kudos to you guys for being innovative. I love the website.

  • Anonymous on 05.13.2011 at 11:22 am

    Other magazines at BU

    A list of other student-run publications at BU appears at http://bu.edu/clarion/BUjournals.htm.

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