Cardboard Magazine is in a complicated situation.
Initially a Northwestern-based blog, Cardboard Magazine has been gradually changing and improving throughout the past year. It has grown from a simple blog with a few hundred views to a magazine with an iPad issue and writers from colleges in multiple regions of the United States.
However, the problem is that despite all this, no one from NW seems to have heard about Cardboard or know who from this college actually writes for it.
In a sentence, Cardboard Magazine is completely student-edited, and its purpose is to reach other Christian college students. The editing staff is made up of NW students.
Currently, the staff includes Justine Johnson, Michael Simmelink, Nick Rohlf and Tyler Farr. All four were recruited by English professor Richard Sowienski, who advises the project via his publishing class. Johnson took the course three times and now works from outside the classroom setting.
Senior journalism major Michael Simmelink began writing toward the beginning of last summer.
“I think my first exposure to the magazine was from Tom Westerholm talking about it at the Beacon,” Simmelink said. “Sowienski was also really pushing it in the couple of classes I took with him.”
Nick Rohlf, who graduated with a history major in 2010, said that Sowienski first approached him about writing for the magazine at the beginning of the 2013 fall semester.
“I honestly didn’t even know it existed before that,” Rohlf said.
Rohlf is currently auditing the Publishing class for the second time. Since August, he has become one of the primary contributing writers.
Although the Cardboard staff has grown, the majority of contributions to the blog have been from a small group of NW students; most have taken either Introduction to Publishing or Advanced Publishing, both of which involve working on Cardboard.
Simmelink doesn’t think the magazine can reach its full potential while it is being run by a class of three at a school of 1,200 students. Consequently, he said he is afraid that Cardboard will soon die off.
Simmelink’s thought stems partly from a hiccup in the design process. After the first iPad issue of Cardboard went live last May, the main question on the minds of all the staff centered around finding someone to keep the app updated for the second issue. When the fall semester began, the publishing class worked its way toward putting the issue together, but time ran out and so did the students’ availability to plan a magazine.
Simmelink expressed his frustration with the complicated nature of being a staff writer.
“It sucks doing all this work and just hoping that maybe someone will step up and design an app,” he said.
Abbie Amiotte, a junior writing and rhetoric major and former staff writer for Cardboard, was a part of the team when the iPad app went live. She said she thinks there is a place for a magazine like Cardboard, but NW is not the place for it to thrive.
“We need a bigger school,” she said. “I love Cardboard, and it makes me sad to think that we don’t necessarily have the resources to make it happen more than once.”
As an alternative, Simmelink would like to see Cardboard move away from its class roots and become more like a business.
“We need to connect with other schools, get a print edition out, use the budget at those other schools to help make that happen,” Simmelink said.
Simmelink said he knows this might mean turning over control to a larger group of people sooner rather than later, but he thinks it would be beneficial.
Amiotte said she has similar thoughts.
“We should find another school that is willing to partner in order to put in the necessary funds to make it work,” she said.
Both on the blog and the app level, staff members are encouraged to find writers from other Christian colleges. Rohlf said he likes this idea but thinks it is a bit unrealistic to expect success unless the outside writers are aware of the vision that the NW writers have nurtured.
“Most of them don’t know what’s going on, so they just submit pieces that don’t really fit very well anywhere,” Rohlf said.
Although some of the staff may be skeptical, Richard Sowienski said he remains confident that his magazine can become bigger than NW. Between the work of the current staff and the submissions which were procured from other schools in the fall, the list has grown to more than 20 potential stories.
“Now that we have more writers from last semester and this semester, we can make more progress,” Sowienski said.
Although there are writers from other schools, what Cardboard lacks is interest from NW. One of the better ways for that to change is if NW students begin reading the magazine. Rohlf said he hopes that no matter what course Cardboard Magazine takes, the mission will remain the same.
“The most important thing right now is to get people to write for it and read the stories that are already there,” Rohlf said. “We just need more hits now.”
NW students can get involved in a few different ways. The Cardboard staff welcomes student blog submissions, which can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Potential feature stories for the second issue of the iPad app edition are also welcome. Students can also read, comment on and share the stories that already exist.