Light & Verity

Summer school for the publishing industry

A course to help professionals keep up with a changing industry.

Marisa L'Amore/Clique Media

Marisa L'Amore/Clique Media

Participants in the Yale Publishing Course listen to a presentation on leadership strategies in magazine media. View full image

Leaving Yale University Press in 2009 after almost 40 years at one publishing house, publishing director Tina Weiner was eager to start something new. That year, Stanford University happened to shut down its intensive ten-day summer course for magazine- and book-publishing professionals. Believing that there remained a need for such a course—where managers could meet, network, and take classes about emerging trends in their industry—several people suggested to Weiner that she import the program to Yale. She was intrigued, and the university encouraged her to take a chance.

Since Weiner first launched the Yale Publishing Course in 2010, she has expanded it from one week to two, offering separate weeks for professionals in the magazine and book industries. The program already has over 500 alumni, from more than 40 countries, including Ireland, Singapore, Tanzania, Croatia, and Argentina.

This year, for two weeks in July, about 100 students attended. In the first week, they heard from faculty like Eric Harris, an executive at the online news (and cute-animal-photograph) site BuzzFeed; his lecture was entitled “7 Ways to Help Transform Your Business for the Digital Future.” Students in the second week, on book publishing, heard two marketing executives at Penguin Random House lecture on “Getting Social: Marketing and Branding in the Digital Age”—among 29 other lectures.

Weiner’s vision is a course for seasoned pros, more like graduate school than college. “This is for mid- to senior-level people,” Weiner says. “It’s not geared to entry-level people, and frankly they would be lost.” Hence the programs—which meet at Yale’s new Greenberg Conference Center, near the Divinity School—don’t tell people how to polish their résumés or score that first interview. They’re more likely to discuss how to deal with the transition to digital publishing, or how to weather a merger.

“The digital revolution is the context for everything,” said Kim Robinson, the editorial director of the University of California Press, when asked what she’d come to learn about. “New digital players coming into our world are part of the context.”

Rogers Nforgwei had traveled from Cameroon, where he works for a publisher that specializes in textbooks. “We hear about e-books every day,” Nforgwei said. “I want to know if it’s going to impact my business, and if so, how. Africa has infrastructural problems, and we have this fear that e-book will consume the print. The fear was so big, I wanted to come and demystify myself.”

Running the two-week course turned into a year-round job for Weiner, who the first year put it together in just four months. “I had always gone to Denver”—site of a different publishing course—“and I thought, ‘This is great. How hard can it be?’ It is much harder than it looks.” It takes months, she says, to find the perfect guests. “The thing about doing it at Yale is you really have to live up to Yale’s standards.”

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