New courses to revitalize The Independent Magazine

The Independent magazine was established in 1976 and turned into its own non-profit organization in 2007.

Courtesy of Dr. Michele Meek

The Independent magazine was established in 1976 and turned into its own non-profit organization in 2007.

By Emily Cardona

Five Emerson departments are collaborating to offer two courses in fall 2020 that will take over the production of The Independent, an indie online film news magazine created in 2007, according to college officials.

John Rodzvilla, director of the publishing and writing graduates program, said senior students from all majors are welcome to enroll into the 400-level journalism and publishing classes: Producing The Independent and The Independent: Editorial Management and Production. Both are open for fall 2020 registration. 

The courses will be taught by Rodzvilla and professor Tim Riley, who plan to hold class at the same time and share a lab classroom so they can co-teach and have students regularly break up into smaller groups to do focus work for the online magazine. 

Rodzvilla told The Beacon he is working with other departments to create more courses, across multiple departments, for the spring 2021 semester that will collaborate to produce more content for The Independent. He added that students applying in spring 2021 and semesters after will need to submit portfolios and applications, which the professor of that class will review. 

Rodzvilla and Robert Sabal, dean of the school of the arts, are working to exempt prerequisites and allow juniors to enroll into these classes by spring 2021. The details of these courses are yet not finalized. 

“The idea is really that students from business of creative enterprises, marketing, and publishing [will] be the kind of management of the magazine,” Sabal said in a phone interview. “Then students from journalism, writing, literature, and publishing, [and] visual media arts will produce the content and form an editorial team.”

The Independent magazine was established in 1976 by the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, an organization that supported small indie and international films and gained prominence during the American Independent video movement in the 1980s and ‘90s. The organization shut down in 2006, but in 2007 a group of former Association members turned the online magazine into its own non-profit organization. 

Dr. Michele Meek, co-founder and president of The Independent’s publishing board, wanted to transfer the online magazine to an organization that would continue to run and produce the site, Sabal said.

In March 2019, The Independent publicly announced that they were accepting proposals from various organizations. The college offered a proposal for the online platform quickly after, and the magazine’s board approved it in April 2019. 

Meek told The Beacon that the board approved Emerson’s offer because they felt Emerson had sufficient resources to continue the work of The Independent, which the college will continue exclusively online. While Meek said the site published various pieces each month, Rodzvilla said the college has not yet determined what the publishing timeline moving forward will look like. 

“The board felt very strongly that Emerson put a very compelling proposal because Emerson has a really strong graduate program in writing businesses, and film,” Meek said in a Zoom call. 

Journalism Department Chair Janet Kolodzy said the main goal for the upcoming fall semester is to work out the initial organization of the magazine. 

“We have a lot of questions, so those classes are going to be kind of the first start of ‘How do we create a process, a workflow?” Kolosky said in a phone interview with The Beacon. “All those questions create the excitement for these fall classes.” 

Rodzvilla’s class in the publishing department this upcoming semester will focus on updating the magazine’s website.

“We are going to look at the archives and think about how they utilized search engine options,” Rodzvilla said in a phone interview. “And come up with a workflow model, and come up with a whole plan to revitalize this whole publication.” 

The Independent did not produce much income over the years, Meek said, and the magazine served a small audience.

“Over the past 10 or more years that I have been running the organization it has been pretty much a labor of love. I never made a personal income from it and I think the publication is really important and I want to see it sustained,” Meek said. “It just got to the point that for me, personally, I can not be the only one who cares about its survival. It just felt like the right time to hand it to someone else because we want to keep the independent film history alive.”

Correction 5/4: A previous version of this article incorrectly implied that the college paid for the platform, however, nonprofit businesses or organizations cannot be sold. This has been corrected. We apologize for the error.