In a March 20 article for the alternative weekly paper The Nashville Scene, Willy Stern, Winter Study adjunct professor of Investigative Reporting and Media Ethics, lambasted Williams students for their apparent apathy towards political affairs. Citing statistics gleaned from daily quizzes of his two classes, Stern claims that Williams students are woefully ignorant of events taking place on the national stage.
Had he looked closer at campus life, Stern might have further made the point that, unlike most “medallion” schools, Williams has no campus publication focused on national politics. That may soon change. Stepping in to fill the void is Scattershot, a new magazine dealing with “American culture and politics,” which is currently accepting submissions and will be published by the end of the semester.
According to Dan Healey ’03, Scattershot’s editor-in-chief, the magazine began to take shape last year. Healey had an interest in both politics and publications, but felt the Record, which concentrates on campus news, was not an effective medium for political commentary.
“In the Record, the political opinions can seem out of place,” said Healey.
Together with Fulton Breen ’03, now the magazine’s business manager, Healey began planning out the specifics of the new magazine. At first, Scattershot took shape as a satirical magazine, a politics-focused counterpart to The Mad Cow. The name, according to Healey, means “random targeting,” reflecting the initial satirical aim of Scattershot.
Soon after Healey arrived in Australia for a fall semester abroad, the magazine’s proposed nature changed dramatically. Accompanied by only a few other American students, Healey watched the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks unfold on satellite television.
“Sept. 11 really changed something. It was weird being down there after that. I felt that we were really more defensive of America. . . I was mainly thinking about the satire aspect [of Scattershot]. After that, it all seemed like such crap, like a waste of time. I started to look at the big picture, that it was important to have sincerity and sentiment alongside irony and cynicism,” said Healey.
Upon his return from Australia, Healey recruited a group of editors, including Aaron Flink ’03, Rob Sawyer ’03 and Will Sicks ’03. Healey and Breen then presented their proposal for Scattershot to College Council’s General Fund Allocation Group (GFAC). On Feb. 17, they were allocated $1,200 for the semester to develop and publish the magazine. Members of the GFAC have high hopes for Scattershot.
“The editors seem more organized and responsible than those of many other groups CC funds, so hopefully they’ll be able to turn out a quality first issue,” said Robert Baldwin ’03, who helped approve funding for the magazine.
At this point, the editors are keeping their goals modest: to publish by the end of the semester and publish once a semester next year. Even those goals could prove to be a challenge, however. Healey hopes to fill 32 pages, no small feat for the premier issue of a campus magazine. In addition, most of Scattershot’s editors have little or no experience with layout programs such as Pagemaker.
“A bunch of guys will have to sit down and learn [Pagemaker],” admitted Healey.
The planned format is a small op-ed section followed by a large features section, and then a somewhat shorter satire section, a carry-over from the earliest days of planning. Planned features for the upcoming issue include lengthy pieces on the economics of Major League Baseball and “right-wing indoctrination in music,” according to Healey. Articles on hot button issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will generally not be Scattershot’s territory; the infrequent publishing schedule means current event articles will have to be eschewed in favor of articles on more overriding themes in American society. Breen, however, sees the possibility for expansion.
“We’re going to feel out our audience, see what kind of circulation we want, how many contributors we’ve got,” he said.
Healey, for his part, has realistic aspirations for Scattershot. While he has certainly examined similar magazines at other, larger schools, he doesn’t plan to make an imitation.
“My friend started a magazine called The Politic at Yale, which was pretty dry. . .. Harvard’s political magazine, of course, is really professional. If Williams does something, it always seems a bit cartoonish,” he said.
There are high hopes among politically active members of the campus, however. Healey actively recruited writers from among the ranks of the Republican and Democratic clubs, and he certainly seems to have piqued some interest.
“A certain degree of political indifference looms over the Williams campus. I hope this can spark some active political interest,” said Mark Gundersen ’04, co-president of the Garfield Republican Club.
Submissions to Scattershot should be turned in by April 12 to firstname.lastname@example.org, although late submissions may be accepted.