Each year, the Associated Collegiate Press recognizes excellence in student media with collegiate journalism’s preeminent award, the Pacemaker. Pacemakers are awarded in each category of publication — online, newspaper, yearbook and magazine.
Entries are judged by teams of professionals based on the following criteria: coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership, design, photography and graphics.
ACP contacted Jackie Zuromski, adviser of Phoenix Magazine for a Q&A. Phoenix is the product of a year-long literary magazine course at Valencia College. Phoenix won a 2015 Magazine Pacemaker for 2-year universities. ACP also heard from Sabrina Loftus, last year’s editor.
ACP: Tell us a little bit about the editors and staff of your Pacemaker-winning publication.
Jackie Zuromski: Our editors come from the fall course we offer in advanced creative writing/ literary magazine, so I know the students typically have a strong passion for writing and reading. The editors choose the pieces that will appear in the magazine, and then we turn over the draft to our student-design team — also a class, for graphic design students–who turn the content into something beautiful based on our chosen theme.
ACP: What were the goals going into last year and how did you ensure those goals were met?
Sabrina Loftus: The goal of the magazine is always to find the most moving pieces of those which are submitted. We received an incredible amount of literary works this past year, and the whole staff worked diligently to decide which pieces would represent the The Phoenix, and the institution as a whole. I believe the multitude of awards The Phoenix received ensured those goals were met.
ACP: How did the staff ensure the quality of the publication?
JZ: Our editors’ class spends the semester reading, discussing and evaluating all student submissions in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art. The favorite pieces are voted on, and we are careful to represent some of everyone’s favorites in the magazine, as the small editorial group is a microcosm of our student body. Our goal is to gather a rich mixture of diverse pieces, and it is amazing how the individual pieces, when combined, create a unified whole.
ACP: Is there any one issue, story, photo, package, etc. that stood out during the year?
JZ: I love that the student designers were so perfectly able to capture the vision of “madness” our editor in chief set up in her letter. The “Dopamine” and “Serotonin” sections were scientifically designed and emotionally charged–my favorite issue to date.
ACP: Tell us about a hardship or obstacle you felt your staff overcame:
JZ: The obstacle we always must overcome is the justification that print magazines still have a place in this techno-world. We continue to try and produce top-level writing and art, along with innovative design choices, to ensure the College continues to fund our magazine.
ACP: What qualities will you remember the most about this Pacemaker-winning staff?
JZ: What I loved about our design and editorial teams was their passion for the project, which created willingness to adapt for the good of the magazine. Our editor in chief, Jennifer Valero, spent countless hours ensuring the magazine was as close to perfect as we could get it, and I believe every person on the staff would attest to that.
ACP: What was the toughest moment you faced last year?
SL: The toughest part, in my opinion, was turning down the potential we were shown. We received so many stories, a plethora of poems, and for the most part they all had an aspect which spoke to at least one of the editors. There are so many memorable pieces that did not make it into the magazine, but they will forever remain in our memories.
ACP: What does the Pacemaker mean to you and your staff?
JZ: The Pacemaker award represents of all we have tried to accomplish with our literary magazine. I am hoping the award helps us to gain readers, staff, contributors, and budget dollars. If such an honor never befalls us again, we will always remember our Pacemaker award as the ultimate authority reminding us that creating a beautiful literary magazine is valuable, professional, and necessary.
SL: The Pacemaker is an accomplishment. I was fortunate enough to be published in the 2014-2015 edition of The Phoenix twice. Not only was my writing included in this amazing magazine, it was also an honor to work on this magazine as an editor and copy editor. The Phoenix’s recognition by the Pacemaker gives me pleasure to have been a part of such a breathtaking edition.