An Experiment

When we started talking about building this site last year, one of the first ideas that came up in our brainstorming meetings was the need/desire to "pull back the curtain" on the process of making (writing for, photographing for, designing for, producing) magazines. As the SPD continues to grow and expand its mission deeper into educational realms, the notion of (radical) transparency has stayed front and center in my mind. Heck, our magazine wrote a cover story about the trend back in our April 2007 issue.

Fast-forward to this summer. My friend and colleague, Jason Tanz, pitched a story at a WIRED editorial meeting about screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, he of Being John Malkovich/Adaptation/Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame. Charlie's a WIRED guy and has a new movie coming out, his directorial debut, Synecdoche. And as I'm sure you'll remember, his work is all about the search for meaning in the process itself. Very GEB: it's about the systems, the way the act of doing is meaning. In Adaptation, Nicholas Cage's character (Charlie Kaufman) writes himself into his own adaptation of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief. We get to see the sausage-making and boy, is it fascinating.

Ok, so how did we get from there to here, SPD, this blog?

As is normal, we all chit-chat about the writing, our goals, the shoot, the layout, how we want the thing to turn out. Jason and I were at a little happy hour last week and got to talking about our hopes for the profile, since the very fact that Charlie had granted access was itself a coup. We're both big fans, but moreover, we've been wanting to do a little form-breaking.

Jason had the notion that we should inject some "Charlie Kaufman" into the making of the profile, go a little meta on the thing. That we walk our own talk. I was hooked. And so was Jason's editor, Nancy Miller. We got to planning. "What if we showed how we produced this story?" "What would happen if we broke the rules, we put the whole thing online as we produced it?" "What if we posted the edit--hell, the rough draft." "What if we posted the pitch letter?" "What if we posted the emails about the pitch letter?" "What if Charlie sees it?" "What if he hates the draft and refuses to cooperate for the rest of the reporting?" "What then?" "What if there was more story about the story than in the story itself?"

You can see where we went. And so, you can see where this blog is going. 

And so here we are. A grand experiment.

It's all going online. Everything. Here, on this blog.

Stay tuned. 

  • dallen

    This sounds like a great idea. Can't wait to watch it grow here on the new site (excellent job on that, by the way).

    In my class Magazine Production & Design at the University of Colorado we spend a few weeks on exactly this topic, and it's amazing how foreign the concept of creative articulation is to the journalism, design, and even advertising students. I was truly surprised. Having been in this for a bit, I tend to take that aspect of my job for granted (the fun creative part).

    Anyway, thanks again and I look forward to more posts.

    Dave A.

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