The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs is one of the premier journals of The Fletcher School. It was established in 1975, and the first edition came out in the fall of 1976. It therefore makes sense to celebrate this journal as it completes forty years of publication.
I first learned about The Forum long before I had even thought of applying to Fletcher, as I was skimming through the profiles of one of Fletcher’s eminent alumni from India, Shashi Tharoor, who also happened to be the founding editor of The Forum. So, when I started school in Fall 2016, one of my first actions was to apply to become a member of the editorial team of the journal. I went through the written application process, and an interview to be drafted as a print staff editor.
After joining the team, I learned more about The Forum and its editorial process. The Forum is a student-run journal published twice a year that covers a wide breadth of topics in international affairs. It also has an online platform, on which additional articles and interviews are published. Currently, the team has thirty-four members and is divided among three teams: print, web, and business and external relations. The print staff has four teams of four members, each led by a senior print editor. Teams are responsible for soliciting and editing articles for the print edition. Similarly, the web staff has three teams of four members each and is primarily responsible for managing the online forum. Both of these teams are overseen by the managing print or web editor, respectively. The business and external relations team is responsible for managing subscriptions, advertising and external relations. The editor-in-chief is responsible for overseeing these different functions in total. In the past, The Forum has been led by some exceptional alumni, including former American diplomat Jeffrey D. Feltman and Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award recipient Cornelia Schneider.
The Forum’s editorial process is very rigorous and goes through multiple iterations. The first draft as received from the writer is put through three cycles of edits. The first cycle includes global edits, which refers to editing the article for content, overarching argument and thesis, structure, flow, and logic. The editor will rearrange sentences and paragraphs to ensure the article has a clear, logical, and thoughtful flow. The second cycle includes local edits, which refers to the spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. The third cycle involves editing the citations. The Forum follows the Chicago Manual for editing, but over the years has developed its own style, guidelines, and citation rules. Once the three cycles are done by the print staff editors, the senior editor runs another review. The edited piece is then sent back to the writer for approval and changes. This final step can involve a lot of back-and-forth with the author, as sometimes they may have edits or additions of their own that then need to be reviewed.
The fall semester was busy. My team and I were successful in soliciting three article submissions and we edited three additional articles for publishing. As you can imagine, editing articles is not always easy. There will always be one that ends up taking more time than what you initially budgeted. During a busy school week, this can become strenuous.
And this is not the end in the life cycle of an article getting published in The Forum. After the article is finally edited, it is sent to the designer, who designs the article and sends it back to the staff for one final check. The staff then quickly runs through the article to check for any remaining errors, always keenly on the lookout for the missing Oxford comma.
While solicitations and editing is just one aspect of a functional journal, there are numerous other tasks that are looked after by the journal’s management and leadership. These include managing the team, making sure timelines are adhered to, ensuring there is a constant supply of quality articles, and most importantly, managing the budget.
Apart from work, The Forum folks also have fun. At the beginning of the semester the leadership hosted a barbeque for the incoming staff. For Thanksgiving, a potluck dinner was organized. I have learned so much by being a part of this exceptional team. I picked up valuable editing skills, and also learned how to manage my time — balancing academics and my extra-curriculars.