February 8, 2012

Former editor comes to Knox

Former Chicago Magazine editor Richard Babcock will be serving as a Distinguished Journalist in Residence for spring term 2012.

He plans to teach two courses: Journalism 295 and 370. With the first, titled “The Editorial Process,” Babcock plans to “introduce the class to the way an editor thinks.” He sees this as a beneficial course for all students, not just journalism minors.

“Some of the same disciplines of mind that are taught in law school I learned through osmosis as an editor,” Babcock, who holds a law degree from the University of Michigan, said.

Babcock’s other course offering for the coming term is called “Feature Writing” and focuses on “how to shape a story and tune it for a particular audience.”

“We’ll look at some of the great magazine and newspaper stories of the past and see what we can learn from them,” Babcock said. From these analyses, Babcock explained that students will then produce a 2500-3000 word magazine-quality story if their own.

“We are so lucky [Babcock] is able to come because he just retired,” Professor of Journalism Marilyn Webb said.

Babcock worked as sub-editor with Webb at New York Magazine. Babcock contacted Webb after retiring as Editor-in-Chief of Chicago Magazine, a position he held for 20 years. He wanted to know if she was aware of any teaching opportunities at Knox.

“I was trying to push this through as much as possible so we could benefit from this,” Webb said. “I am really grateful to Dean [Lawrence] Breitborde for working this out.”

Webb is on leave for the winter and spring terms of this year to write a book, and Babcock will be filling her place next term.

Since retiring last spring, Babcock has already worked at the Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism as a summer lecturer. He also pursues independent fiction writing.

“When I left the magazine, I didn’t plan on retiring,” Babcock said. “I wanted to stay engaged with smart people of all ages and varieties.” He sees being an educator as a different kind of challenge than being an editor.

“In teaching, I have found you have to step back and start articulating what it is that you are doing and why you are doing it,” Babcock said.

Camille Brown
Camille Brown is a junior majoring in English literature and double minoring in educational policy and journalism. Previously, she served as editor-in-chief of her high school paper and a reporter for TKS. She spent the summer of 2012 freelancing for The Peninsula Gateway and is currently pursuing an independent study concerning the media’s influence on education.

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