Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Journal Editor

Since this blog is linked to GW's policy journal Policy Perspectives, I thought it might be useful for people interested in working for the journal to know just what it is we do. So here's a day of my work as this year's Managing Editor.

Meet with Micah at the office for our weekly catch-up. We discuss where we're at--three of our four articles are in layout and all five book reviews have been laid out--and figure out what we need to do to keep the team on-track. He e-mails the three article teams a reminder to have their layout edits done by tomorrow so I can incorporate them. I tell him I still need to point the hideous old website to the glorious new address. We also talk about the submissions we got for next year's EIC and Managing Editor and how/when we'll do the hand-off.

Micah and I meet with librarian/associate editor Caroline in the library. We go over the work we still need to do to get the journal's archives online by mid-May: finish tagging metadata (article subjects and keywords for online searches), use her XML procedure to upload all the PDFs, check the site to make sure the links work and everything's how we want, e-mail past authors to inform them what we're doing, write a press release announcing the new site and the digital archives.


Call the ISS Help Desk to get password for old GW website access. Talk with Glenn, who is amazingly helpful, and resets the password in ten minutes.

Respond to e-mails from book reviewers and editors about metadata assignment, the layout QC, and due dates. Route old website to new one. Discuss web access citation standards with Micah: we agree to set the style at full access date (i.e., month day, year). I update the style guide.

Start blog post.

E-mail Caroline master metadata spreadsheet. Sift through inbox, answering additional assorted questions.

Lay out editor biographies; incorporate final book review edits into journal layout.

Download and start reading applications for Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor.

Run into Lauren, one of our authors. We talk about proper citation, the timeline to publication, and her final edits.

E-mail Teresa, another of our authors, about data for some of the figures in her piece. Format one of her graphs in Illustrator and lay it out in the journal.

Receive Linnea's final edits to the layout of Amanda's article (i.e., the QC). Put them in backpack to incorporate later.

Finish up blog post and start packing up for class.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Favorite Courses Thread

I thought we could start a discussion about favorite classes offered in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. I kinda don't have the best exposure to the program's offerings—as a joint degree student, I don't really get any electives. But that doesn't mean I haven't had some great classes! Here's my favorite...

I enjoyed ECON 222 Cost-Benefit Analysis. I think Professor Cellini is the reason I liked the course so much. I'm not an economics person by any means, and Professor Cellini was very responsive to the different level of needs among different students. She often had after hours class sessions for those of us who needed further explanation of concepts or help navagating Microsoft Excel. And her office hours were always helpful. The main project for the semester, a cost-benefit analysis (go figure), was a beast. But I credit the project with helping me to really, REALLY understand many of the economic concepts I learned in the class and previous courses.

What's yours?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Guerrilla Government at the Environmental Film Festival

For Capstone, I recently finished reading Rosemary O'Leary's fascinating The Ethics of Dissent: Managing Guerrilla Government (also reviewed by Eric Boyer in the journal last year). Imagine my surprise when I saw similar stories of bureaucrats fighting the bureaucracy from the inside during this week's showing of The National Parks: America's Best Idea and The World According to Monsanto as part of the Environmental Film Festival. The former told how George Melendez Wright and Adolph Murie, two Park scientists, fought against Park policies regarding wildlife management by writing copiously researched scientific reports (yes, thousands of sample of wolf poop were dissected for science), limply implemented hated policies, and using personal contacts to spark dissent from outside the system. The latter interviewed both political appointees on Monsanto's payroll and rank-and-file employees who both went along with and stood up to the FDA's GMO food policy.

These stories make me proud to call myself a bureaucrat. Although O'Leary rightly points out that guerrilla activism in government agencies isn't always for the greater good, it is important to keep in mind that government policy is not created in a vacuum by political appointees, but is often crucially shaped by career experts who are passionate about what they do. (Monsanto shows how shamefully civil servants can give in to private interests.) This is important to remember, because even perfectly intelligent people like George Packer tend to paint government as "sluggish and indifferent" with only rare examples of employees worthy of being singled out for even two (rather than three) cheers.

I won't hold back. I say, three cheers for the bureaucrats!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

MPA's Wall of Shame

I don't like hearing Hannity & Colmes or Chris Matthews on my way to class. I don't like being bombarded with car and oil company commercials while waiting for the elevator. I especially take offense to the notion that cable news networks could possibly fall under the aegis of "journalism."

We MPAs at the Trachtenberg School tend to think that the MPA building, which houses TSPPPA faculty and staff offices (as well as Policy Perspectives), was named for our degree. It's easy to forget that between class on the 3rd floor and offices on the 6th and there are two floors dedicated to the Media and Public Affairs program that really gave the building its name, as well as the wall of shame in the lobby.

American media have a long and proud tradition, assorted gems of which are encased in glass outside the Jack Morton auditorium. These artifacts are important for future journalists to remember what they're aspiring to accomplish; less useful is the wall of televisions constantly blaring the completely useless 24-hour news networks: CNN, MSNBC, Fox News. True, GW's television station and C-SPAN are also broadcast, but without sound, forcing everyone who has to wait for the elevator to listen to the offensive, partisan, but worse--uninformed--opinions and commentary that form the core programming at the big three. Are the TVs there to show our journalism students what news is supposed to be? Does the school really think anything of value comes out of cable news programming, and not realize how it's contributing to the nation's
intransigently partisan news-junkiness?

For an MPA like me, the wall of shame is a constant reminder of how difficult it is to implement good public policies when the level of discourse is so pathetic. Why not save some energy by unplugging the TVs and replacing them with newspaper front pages? Or broadcast classic news segments alongside the current drivel? Anything would beat having to see Wolf Blitzer ever again.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

This is your intelligence community on potato vodka...

Moscow is all gaga over Russian professor, former KGB analyst and foreign policy "expert" Igor Panarin. But elsewhere, he is not generating headlines of the flattering variety by any means. His claim to fame: predicting the U.S.A. will cease to exist as of next year. Apparently, demographic and social trends will lead to civil war as wealthier states secede from the union. Then, the country will split along ethnic lines and foreign powers will move in to claim the smoldering remains. Here's how the process shakes out in this starry-eyed Kremlin fantasy:

Let's recap:

1) South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky join the EU, under the same central government as Vermont.
2) Kansas and Missouri (not to mention Colorado Springs) become part of Canada, but Washington does not.
3) Texans voluntarily submit to the will of Mexico City bureaucrats.
4) Utah and Arizona are annexed by China.

Not to mention Alaska and all its oil goes to Russia, who can't even handle the territory it already has. But wasn't this the purpose of the Kremlin's exercise in silly geopolitical daydreaming to begin with?

Now the punchlines virtually write themselves, but I'll make a couple more serious observations under the assumption that this theory is anything but laughable and let you all add the jokes.

First, there are certainly demographic divides within the US, but they are more than canceled out by the economic benefits of a strong central government and nearly nonexistent interstate economic barriers. Meaning unity hasn't been a serious problem for the country for some time now.

Second, any political collapse in the United States would undoubtedly be accompanied by economic collapse. This would cause an alarming rise in instability in all of the countries mentioned as potential colonizers, including and especially the already unstable Russia.

Third, any of the colonial alliances portrayed in that colorful map above would present serious strategic problems for Russia. Most notably, the American east would immediately be the largest nation in the EU and would certainly push the consortium towards a more hawkish stance on Russia's bullyish extortion of Europe regarding natural gas. Also, about the last thing Russia needs right now is a stronger China to threaten its hold on Siberia.

If you've read this far, please feel free to add your jokes in the comments.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World

There's an amazing exhibit going on at the Kennedy Center. Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World offers a glimpse into the unique culture of the Arab world. The exhibit features the works of many artists, from the ancient to the modern, from the abstract to the concrete. In addition to the displayed art, patrons can see performances of music and dancing. I'm kicking myself for missing the Whirling Dervishes.

The exhibit continues through March 15. Don't miss it!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ode to the Style Sheet

Something I've insisted on in the editorial process at Policy Perspectives is that each team work with a style sheet. So I thought I'd take a moment to explain what a style sheet is, why it's so useful in the editing process, and how to create and use one.

First, a style sheet is a summary of the author's preferences for anything that could be up for debate (is "childcare" one word, should you spell out "percent," and do you hyphenate "African-American"?). It is used by copyeditors to ensure consistency in a manuscript, and can also help with fact-checking in scholarly work, as an editor can quickly check all cited authors' names and works against the style sheet for correctness.

It's easy to create one. Just grab a blank sheet of paper, create a Word doc, or, if you're editing with a team, a Google doc, and start marking anything that crops up. I tend to be nit-picky about hyphens, so I'll include all words that are or could be hyphenated: trade-off, decisionmaker, 4-star center. I also put in bills and authors that are referenced, especially if they have tricky names, as well as terms that are capitalized (or not) in a way that seems unusual to me.

I'm a convert, and I hope everyone at the journal will become masters of the style sheet, so we can make Volume 16 the best yet!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

President Obama unleashes the fightin' words

For a while, I was worried Obama was too conciliatory to accomplish the true progressive change America needs. That's why I didn't openly support him for most of 2007. And he certainly seemed to be excessively committed to bipartisanship at the expense of effectiveness in the earliest days of his administration.

But that seems to have changed dramatically in recent weeks. Check out the Weekly Address released today (using the Daily Kos version, which is in a more reliable format):

The key quote in my opinion:
"I realize that passing this budget won’t be easy. Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington....I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this:

"So am I."
You can read the full speech text at the White House blog.