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Change and Constancy

by Rudy M. Baum
January 12, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 2

As diligent readers of C&EN have surely noticed from a number of recent articles, the American Chemical Society and C&EN are in the midst of significant personnel changes. On Jan. 1, Madeleine Jacobs, C&EN’s editor-in-chief since July 1995, became ACS executive director and CEO. On the same date, I became the magazine’s ninth editor-in-chief.

Jan. 1 also marks my 24th anniversary as a member of C&EN’s staff, which I joined in 1980 as an assistant editor in the magazine’s Production & Editing Group. I’ve now held six positions with C&EN, including 14 wonderful years as the West Coast bureau head and nine as managing editor and deputy editor-in-chief working under Jacobs’ inspired leadership.

I have seen a lot of changes at C&EN and have helped shape the magazine that now exists and which celebrated its 81st anniversary two days ago. During the quarter century that I’ve been associated with C&EN, the magazine has evolved along with the chemical enterprise it serves. Our coverage reflects the increasing importance of research at the interfaces of chemistry and other disciplines, particularly biology and materials science; the influence of the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries on the overall chemical industry; the complexity of the social issues engendered by scientific and technological progress; and the increasingly global nature of the chemical enterprise.

The look of the print edition of C&EN has also evolved, as has the style in which it is written. We believe our current design is open and invites readers in while maintaining the seriousness that befits the newsmagazine of the chemical world. Likewise, the journalistic style of writing we employ delivers information efficiently while avoiding jargon and the impenetrability of much professional scientific discourse.

And for the past six years, we’ve delivered an electronic edition of C&EN, C&EN Online, which, like everything else electronic, has evolved much more rapidly than the print edition. We view C&EN Online as a critical complement to the print edition of C&EN, one that will become even more important in the year ahead.

With all of that change, however, there are a number of important constants. C&EN’s editorial mission is one such constant: “To cover news, events, and trends across the chemical enterprise—industry, academe, government, and other chemically related sectors—in a timely, accurate, and balanced way.” It is a mission that is easy enough to state, but challenging to achieve week in and week out when your subject matter is as broad and complex as the chemical enterprise.

Another constant is our dedication to accuracy. Yes, it is in our mission statement, but it transcends our mission. Accuracy is the bedrock on which you build a credible newsmagazine. C&EN’s two previous editors-in-chief, Jacobs and her predecessor, Michael Heylin, hammered that into every member of C&EN’s staff. I intend to carry on that tradition. Without accuracy, you have nothing. C&EN strives to get every fact right, and when we make a mistake, we correct it.

Yet another constant is our commitment to ACS and its members. C&EN is the official organ of the society, a role we embrace enthusiastically. We are committed to covering ACS in the same timely, accurate, and balanced way that we cover any other subject. And we are very cognizant of the fact that C&EN is the only product of ACS that lands in the mailbox or the inbox of every member of the society every week. It is the most tangible reminder of one’s membership in the world’s largest scientific society.

There are many reasons to publish a magazine, but there is really only one good reason: to deliver an excellent product that serves the needs and interests of its readers. That has been another constant at C&EN for 81 years, and it remains one for me and the other 51 members of C&EN’s extraordinarily talented staff.

Thanks for reading.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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