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Peeking in on the Magic

PUBLISHED: December 14, 2011

One of the many pleasures of serving on a magazine staff is the give-and-take of the editing process. You know when a piece is exceptional but not yet in its best form. For the past week, I have been fortunate to peek in on the tireless creation of “Half-Lives: The Chernobyl Workers Now,” a short film by Maisie Crow with production assistance from frequent VQR contributor Jesse Dukes. Their poignant video complements a superb work of narrative journalism, “The Resurrection” by Maria P. Vassileva with Crow’s photographs, in our Fall 2011 print issue. We have made both versions of this story available for free on our website. Such content is the reason I joined the VQR staff.

Under the guidance of Ted Genoways (and now deputy editor Donovan Webster, as well), VQR is committed to maintaining its print excellence while expanding its digital footprint. We don’t believe in the idea of “either/or”—but rather “both/and”—when it comes to offering rich content to audiences with distinct preferences in terms of how and how often they want to engage with our work. To take one measure of audience diversity: we have print subscribers in twenty-four countries and online readers in more than 206 countries and territories. Some, like me, love words on paper. Others prefer to digest their news on computers, tablets, and smart phones. We plan to serve both groups in a manner that best suits their reading habits. And, as our two approaches to the Chernobyl story make clear, we have not forgotten content omnivores.

But, for a moment, let’s forget readership statistics and the digital revolution and return instead to the work itself. Watch the video below—and click to expand it to full screen, in order to appreciate Crow’s lush and emotional camerawork. During the interview, Viktor Koshevoi, the retired chief electrical engineer at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, says, “I am spent material.” His statement clearly pains his wife, maybe both for its bluntness in front of strangers and because he is so much more than that to her. It is a raw, heartbreaking moment. To gain such access, journalists must first gain a subject’s trust. This is not easily done. Rarely is anything good easily done. And this piece, as is characteristic of VQR, is well done indeed.

It is an honor to have been selected as the VQR publisher. I look forward to peeking in on the creation of more magic over the years.

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