More COVID-19 advice, fix the worst page of your mag, and a work-from-home tip

I’m hearing so much from everyone about the coronavirus coverage on your campus! Thank you for sharing your stories with me.

1. Feedback and questions about coronavirus magazine coverage

I want to share a few responses I got to my newsletter about coronavirus coverage. (If you missed it, it’s here.)

First, here’s a note from Kirstin Wilder at the University of Nebraska. I love how she’s thinking about the full range of people who can share unique stories in her magazine. What ideas of hers can you use for your publication?

Next, here’s a note from Beth Miller, who is at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, a school whose academic focus leads to all sorts of unique challenges. (If there is anyone who can figure it out, though, it might just be engineers!)

I know a lot of folks will be moving to online learning. It will be messy, without a doubt! But there are likely to be breakthroughs you can highlight, too.


I agree with Beth’s approach about including the line in your magazine about information being accurate at press time — for a crisis like this, you might literally have to specify the date and time.

Finally, heres’s a message  from Alicia Dirado, who notes a handful of the specific challenges that most of us are facing. My response follows.

I suspect that many of us will have to think through this concern. My best advice?

  • License or get reprint rights for any material that exists and is relevant to your institution

  • Seek out material that folks are producing for their own pages (Instagram, Twitter, or maybe even Facebook, depending on your access)

  • Pull quotes from stories where they have been quoted for other publications

Capstone is working with one client on this exact issue, and we’re currently collecting a list of promising sources that we plan to send a handful of questions/prompts. I’m sure many will be too busy to respond, and of course that’s fine! But if they can provide responses to a few prompts, we might just be able to tell a unique story.

Call it the party photos page. The chapter events spread. The alumni activities page. Whatever you call it, you know the page I’m talking about.

For many of us, this section of our magazine is an impossible must-do. How do you salvage a page when the photos you get are a series of poorly-lit grip and grins, images of people’s backs facing the camera, and pictures taken from what appears to be a phone from 2002?


The reality, of course, is that our magazines might not have an events page for the next issue (or issues). But when we do add them back in, how do we improve them?

The answer might just be this one page guide for event photo submissions. Kirstin Wilder shared it with me awhile ago, and I love it.

It’s clear, simple, and incredibly useful.

Many coordinators have been cancelling events and using this time to update their protocols and alumni toolkits, which means this could be a useful guide that they can add to their arsenal as they make improvements during this slower time for them. When I passed it on to my own alma mater’s regional coordinator, she was thrilled:

This might be just the time to help your events coordinators amp up their photo game — and improve your magazine’s party photos spread in the process.

3. Exactly one tip for working from home during COVID-19

Many of you have moved to a work-from-home situation for the foreseeable future. If you haven’t done it before, it might not be the easiest switch! (Especially if you ALSO have kids at home.)

If you’re like me, it’s been hard to concentrate. You’re checking the news constantly, and you’re not getting as much done as you like. I’ve been working from home for 15 years, but there are new variables that have thrown even my time-tested system for a loop.

One thing I have found genuinely helpful — not just now, but anytime that I’ve felt stressed and overwhelmed — is using a 15-minute sand timer to focus on ONE task. (This is the one I currently have on my desk.)

You’ve got an email to write? Story to review? An opening paragraph to craft? Flip over the timer and commit to just 15 minutes to work on it.

I love the analog-ness of the sand timer. Often I finish the task in 15 minutes! And if not, I give myself credit, even if I really do stop at 15 minutes. The vast majority of the time, just getting started is all the motivation I need to work until the task is completed. Sometimes, just getting one solid thing done in the course of the day is enough. This might help.

Try it! Let me know if it works for you.

Many of you have torn up your editorial plans in the past couple weeks.

When your editorial lineup is in flux, it can be helpful to have some already-written evergreen content to use when certain stories fall through. When this is all over and you can take a breath, consider building some unbreakable backup stories with this process.