By Laura Yates
Downing coffee and plastered to their computers on the second floor of Alden Library, a group of dedicated, droopy-eyed students frantically edit copy, design pages and tweak content as they fight to meet their deadline. Pulling an all-nighter is not uncommon for the typical college student, but planning, producing and publishing a magazine for their peers is.
Backdrop, Ohio University's first magazine by students and for students, hit campus today.
Students can grab one of the 8,000 free, full-color copies of Backdrop magazine at the College Gate during the day and at other campus locations, including Alden Library, Baker University Center and Bentley Hall, throughout the week.
The magazine evolved out of a required 400-level magazine journalism course that allows students to create and pitch their own magazine. But the classroom was too confining for senior Ashley Luther and a group of classmates; they were bound for bigger things.
"We wanted to get real experience in making our own magazine and with writing stories that we wanted to write about and read about," said Luther, a double-major in magazine journalism and visual communication who serves as Backdrop's editor-in-chief. "We thought OU was overdue for an entirely student-run, independently funded lifestyle magazine."
The magazine includes stories on entertainment, politics, health, university news and music. Backdrop also features a photo section of dos and don'ts, an amusing sex column and submitted art, poetry and photography. It hopes to be a "backdrop" to student life, its staff says.
"Ohio University college students are our target audience, and as we get feedback, we'll evolve to suit their wants and needs," said design director Gina Beach, a junior who also has two majors (in publication design and magazine journalism).
What won't change is the magazine's tone.
"We do aim for a younger, edgier demographic, so we try to take risks with our content while still being respectful," Luther said.
The magazine got its start last spring, when Luther formed the student organization Scripps Magazine Society within the School of Journalism. Although the group at first hosted speakers and successful alumni, it quickly morphed into an editorial staff for the budding Backdrop.
"Students should be pumped about Backdrop because it's something that has never been done before," Luther said. "It'll give them something to look forward to."
Though the creative side came naturally, one of the hardest aspects of starting Backdrop was securing funding, Luther said. The group raised money for printing through ad sales, fund-raisers and membership dues. Students approached more than 200 potential advertisers, and about 80 percent of the first issue was financed by ads.
"I learned money makes the world go 'round. It's not easy trying to sell ads blindly with no prototype of the magazine to show potential advertisers," said Luther, who spent roughly 25 hours a week throughout winter quarter working on Backdrop.
The magazine is supported by a core group of 10 editors and about 50 student contributors -- from freshmen to seniors. Though participants are mainly journalism majors, the group welcomes anyone who is interested in helping with research, copy editing, design, advertising, writing, distribution, photography, fund-raising, public relations or marketing.
According to adviser and Visiting Professor of Journalism Jack Brady, Backdrop hits its mark: "Magazine don't try to please everyone anymore," he said. "They find a niche and scratch it. They narrow-cast.
"Demographically, I think the magazine is right on the nose," he added. "Every story, every page says, 'This is for you, young Athens.'"
To get involved: Students who wish to submit work or gain more information on Backdrop should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the magazine's page on Facebook. Those interested in joining the Scripps Magazine Society are welcome to attend the weekly meetings at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays in Scripps 111.