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Finding Our Niche

We are living in an age of almost instantaneous communication. Through Internet news services and live television satellite feeds, we learn of big events--school shootings, earthquakes, stock market surges--the minute they happen. Within a day, newspapers are all over the story, and in record time the nation's print magazines and TV news magazines have produced their special reports.

There was a time, not so many years ago, when Johns Hopkins Magazine could report on a significant finding made in a Hopkins science, or medicine, or computer lab, and expect that many of you readers were not yet privy to it. What's more, we could expect that the finding would hold up--without being supplanted or disproved by a discovery of even greater import-- for months or years...or at least until our next issue came out.

The same held true with important campus news: a dean steps down, the Peabody Orchestra goes overseas, the university president gives an address on Commemoration Day. Chances are, if you lived outside the Baltimore area, you weren't aware of these events until you opened the magazine's pages.

Not so today. Scientific advances come so fast and furious that a two-month lead time seems almost quaint. By the time we let you know that one Hopkins researcher has pinpointed a gene involved in colon cancer, three others have found genes for cystic fibrosis, breast cancer, and Crohn's disease. And sources for getting your information--fast--have multiplied exponentially: Web services will scan the Internet universe to bring you the latest news on any subject you're interested in, be it jazz or reproductive health; scientific and trade journals exist in numbers never seen before and can offer electronic access to discoveries made in Hopkins labs and around the world. And, you're now just a few keystrokes away from knowing exactly what's going on, virtually minute by minute, across all the Johns Hopkins divisions (

So where does this leave Johns Hopkins Magazine, a publication with relatively sluggish turnaround time that lands in your mailbox just five times a year? What can we offer that you won't find anywhere else?

For starters, there's context.

We were well into production on this issue--with our cover story on the need some advocates see for more clinical trials involving pregnant women--when the tragic news broke of the death of Ellen Roche, a healthy Hopkins research subject and employee, who had been a volunteer in a Hopkins asthma study. By now you know of the resulting fallout, which made international headlines: A federal agency temporarily rescinded funding for almost all Hopkins research involving human subjects. In the limited time available to us, we've put together a chronology of the sad events, which you'll find on page 14. But we've also embarked on a more ambitious special report for next issue that will look at the complex issues surrounding human testing from the perspectives of the key players involved: volunteer test subject, researcher, ethicist, government regulator. Such thoughtful analysis is something that's always been a hallmark of Johns Hopkins Magazine. (And something you'll find in this issue with stories like "Pregnant Pause," and our profile of classical guitarist Manuel Barrueco.) It's also something that remains more valuable than ever today, a counterpoint to our age of Webcams, online updates, and 24-hour cable news.

With this issue, we've also changed our format and freshened our look, in an effort to complement our coverage of the university's "big stories" with fuller attention to the "little" ones. Thus, we've initiated columns like "Up and Comer," which spotlights promising junior researchers who've not yet made the Big Discovery, and "Datebook," a slice-of-life in shorthand. (Ever wondered, for example, what medical residents do their first day on the job? See page 16 to find out.) Our new format also offers more flexibility, giving us the opportunity to leaven longer, more analytical feature stories with short two-page takes on subjects ranging from dorm life to potato bugs. We hope you enjoy the changes we've made, and that you find--in sum--a reinvigorated magazine that offers a fuller and more intimate picture of the university's incredible breadth.

A fond farewell to Emily Carlson (MA '01), the magazine's inaugural Corbin Gwaltney Fellow, who gamely agreed to stick around this summer to help get our new sections launched. We'll miss the unflappable Emily, who at press time was mulling over a variety of promising job offers.

I'm proud to tell you, too, that the magazine earned several awards in the annual contest sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Senior writer Dale Keiger and Joy Igonikon '00 won CASE's Grand Gold Medal in the Best Articles Category for "Pride in Joy," (September 2000). The magazine also earned bronze medals in Staff Writing, Higher Education Reporting, and Special Issues (for the April 2000 "Pioneers" issue). And the cover of our November 2000 issue, by artist William Cigliano, was selected to appear in The Society of Illustrators 43rd Annual of American Illustration.

-Sue De Pasquale

Return to September 2001 Table of Contents

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