Category Archives: Work

VQR nabs an Ellie.

VQR won the single-topic issue category at the National Magazine Awards tonight for our South America issue released last fall. We were also nominated for General Excellence (fourth year running) and Photojournalism. In the latter category we were beat out by National Geographic, which is a pretty great magazine to lose to in that arena. Personally, I think it’s a coup that we were even nominated. I have to offer my annual disclaimer that I had nothing to do with the material for which we were nominated, though this is the last year for which that’s the case; I’ve had enough to do with the last couple of issues that I’ll merely have to feign modesty.

How massive resistance ended over Harry Byrd’s wishes.

Orange County native Lindsay Almond was elected governor of Virginia against Harry Byrd’s wishes in 1957. Byrd had eliminated five statewide seats, winnowing the number down to the three we know today, in order to make it easier for him to control the outcome of the elections. (I wonder what those five seats were, and whether we should consider recreating them today.) Almond had managed to get the Democratic nomination and elected without kissing Byrd’s ring.

What the two did share — or appeared to share — was the zealous support of segregation. Almond went on TV in January of 1959 and told the state’s citizens that, despite the Virginia Supreme Court’s demand that schools be opened up again, he was determined to “destroy every semblance of education for thousands of the children of Virginia” before he’d give in “to those who would overthrow the customs, morals and traditions of a way of life which has endured in honor and decency for centuries and embrace a new moral code prepared by nine men in Washington whose moral concepts they know nothing about.”

Just a week later, Almond spoke before the General Assembly and, to the shock of the assembled legislators, had come 180° on the matter. The courts had ruled, and it was time to integrate the schools.

It’s what happened in that week — the conversation between Byrd and Almond, and the power struggle that was going on behind the scenes — that makes this such a great story for students of Virginia history. Read all about it in the Autumn 1998 VQR.

VQR talk in the Rotunda this evening.

Tonight VQR is holding an event to promote our new issue. We have four contributors to the South American themed issue speaking in the Dome Room of the UVa Rotunda at 7pm. We’ll also screen a pair of eight-minute documentaries, basically film versions of a pair of the articles, that were created in collaboration with Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. At 8pm we’ll have a reception at our office, which is next to the Rotunda. All are welcome, though you’ll want to arrive early for the former event, since we cannot have more than 140 people in the room.

The Fall 2007 VQR.

I’ve been enormously busy for the past two weeks, preparing the Fall 2007 issue of Virginia Quarterly Review for the web. It’s just about done, and the results are just excellent. Every scrap of the issue is available online, for free, because we’re just so thrilled with it. The issue is dedicated to the topic of South America in the 21st century, a result of sending writers, photographers, and videographers across the continent; before you yawn, give it a shot.


We’ve got articles about soy displacing rain forest in Brazil, trash-picking cartoneros in Buenos Aires, a town of albinos in the mountains of Argentina, Hugo Chávez’s bloody 2002 crackdown on opposition protesters, Chiquita’s practice of running drugs and guns for Colombian terrorists, the inhabitants of the Amantani and Taquile islands in Lake Titicaca and a comic by Liniers about his trip to Antarctica. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg (though my favorite stuff).

Coolest of all, the front page of the issue’s web page is a Google map — charting the location of every article, including seven web exclusives — two articles feature videos (the cartoneros and Titicaca pieces), and every last photo can be blown up through JavaScripty goodness to a screen-filling size.

This is the most ambitious web-based reinterpretation of an issue that we’ve done yet.

Participating in the Creative Commons

I’ve explained before why I release my photographs under a Creative Commons license, and I’m happy to report that we’ve done something similar here at Virginia Quarterly Review.

A literary writers conference by the name of “LWC}NYC” is held each year. It’s a wonky professional writers’ thing that you and I would probably find of no interest. At last year’s event there was a panel discussion involving five big-deal publishing industry figures, including the publisher of HarperCollins, the publisher of Alfred A. Knopf, and the editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly. The 45-minute talk was very well received, and was recorded. Somehow we ended up with the recording, and knew that it could be valuable to writers aspiring to learn more about the industry.

We paid Charlottesville-based Wordcast Productions to clean up the audio, and then we passed that audio onto a woman who transcribed the entire discussion. We then encoded that audio as an MP3 suitable for transferring online and marked up the transcript using the HTML definition list standard, making it easy to parse. The resulting document is useful, but what makes it significantly more useful is that we released the whole shebang under the Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works Creative Commons license, with the permission of the discussion’s participants.

As it turns out, this has been valuable — industry blogs and mailing lists have been excited to read it, and everybody knows that they can legally reproduce the audio and the transcript as they see fit. VQR could have retained the copyright over the transcript, as an original compilation of our own, but what good would that do us? Plus, while we funded the audio and text conversion, it’s not even an original creation of our own, so we don’t really have any great moral right to retain rights over it.

The end result is that this information is able to be made available as widely as possible, furthering the mission of both VQR and the university, and there’s a lot to like about that.

VQR on Chiquita’s support of terrorists.

With Tuesday’s news that Chiquita will pay a $25M fine for providing millions of dollars in aid to Colombian terrorist group FARC, suddenly VQR’s forthcoming fall issue, dedicated entirely to South American issues, looks downright prescient. To that end, we’ve just posted publicly a history of Chiquita’s practices of of running cocaine on their freighters and providing arms to terrorists — an article that resulted from our sending Phillip Robertson to Colombia to investigate. My fellow geeks may enjoy the awesome JavaScript zoomy effect that I’ve just employed to allow people to get a better look at our often-great photography. That’s thanks to Torstein Hønsi’s excellent Highslide.

VQR Submission System v1.0.

After hundreds of hours of work, 249 issues in FogBugz, and thousands of lines of code, the VQR electronic submission system is done. It won’t look real exciting to 99% of y’all, but believe me, this system represents the absolute technological pinnacle in the delivery and management of electronic submissions to publications. The last couple of weeks have been particularly exhausting (hence the light blogging). Now I have to push out v1.1 by October 1 to provide all of the features that didn’t make the cut for v1.0. And the churn goes on.