With the launch of the new Americas Quarterly website, we thought we’d take the opportunity to sit down with one of our colleagues to reflect a little, informally, about how we see the region, the journal and our all-critical readers. Our colleague, Caitlin Miner-Le Grand, the AS/COA communications associate, cooked up a set of questions and at the end of an editorial meeting posed them to the AQ team asking us to respond as spontaneously and off the cuff as we could.
Q. What is Latin America today that it wasn’t ten years ago?
- More democratic
- More open
- More dynamic
- More integrated
- More global
- More transparent
Q. Since you write a policy magazine on the region, where do you turn to get your news on the region?
- Really there aren’t that many good sources. That’s part of the reason that we’re doing this.
- It’s ad hoc. A lot of our outreach is through personal contacts and conversations with people.
Q. Can YOU give me just one or two people from the hemisphere that you see right now as really shaping either a political, social, or cultural aspect of the region’s identity?
- Marcelo Ebrard, the mayor of Mexico City. He has progressive views and the possibility of transforming the PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática) into a central democratic party.
- Artists like Shakira and Juanes. With their social commitment, the stars of the region have become important symbols of change and hope.
- This isn’t a specific person but I would say Latin American immigrants in the United States. Increasingly, they are the faces of Latin America for everyday Americans.
- Junot Diaz and Juan Manuel Miranda. They really document the immigrant and second generation experience in this moment in time.
- Another person is [Brazilian President] Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva who has really shown that you can combine social progress and adherence to macroeconomic fundamentals to generate economic development.
Q. Speaking about a part of the Americas that hasn’t been mentioned so far, what does Canada specifically bring to issues of hemispheric engagement?
- Not as much as many would like. They talk about it a lot, but it’s usually symbolic and very little translates into concrete action.
- On a different note, the development of the Canadian tar sands has been an important development for the United States and for the region as a whole—an important source of energy with possibilities that we have yet to be fully maximized.
Q. To move to a more AQ-specific topic: Who is reading AQ both across this country and across the hemisphere?
- My mother, who actually complained about the price.
- Professors are using it as course packets.
- Beyond that, though, we honestly don’t know. There’s an anonymity in terms of our readership which is both frustrating and somewhat stimulating. We write, we think, we edit and we design, we know it’s sold on newsstands and people subscribe—but basically it’s strangers who are reading it.
- We hear anecdotes. For example, we hear about a member of the U.S. Congress reading it on a plane trip or about Joe the Plumber looking through it. (OK, I’m joking about Joe the Plumber.)
- I think AQ readers are people who see the hemisphere as integrated, rather than in terms of us and them. Our readers are engaged with the region as a whole on many levels—arts, politics, business, and economics.
- My fantasy of a typical reader is somebody in the policy world who recently graduated and is in the first five years of their career.
Q. That actually leads to the next question. Close your eyes and imagine: Who would you be thrilled to see reading AQ?
- The next president.
- Sarah Palin.
- People that don’t have passports.
- Those from outside the Americas—Europe, Asia, the Middle East.
- Hispanic Americans who see the journal as a reflection of their native countries.
- With Spanish and Portuguese editions of AQ in the next few years, I look forward to seeing non-English readers picking up a copy of AQ.
Q. Print magazines are a dying breed, and with the launch of a new website, AQ is embracing the digital world. How do you see AQ being able to buck the trend as a start-up magazine at a time when magazines, and especially print ones, are not very successful?
- On print, I still believe in the authority of a print magazine. It may be a commercially difficult creature, but it has an authority that Internet does not.
- The fact that we break each issue into themes makes AQ something that readers can more easily return to. A lot of our pieces are pretty timeless, addressing issues that are going to be around in five years.
- The beauty of Americas Quarterly is that it has an authority—some hard reading—but it also has a lightness about it. You can take it with you on a Sunday and read it at a café but at the same time you might have it with you on a plane or for right before a conference.
- Frequency is important. A quarterly journal is something people can have around for a couple of months. They can keep on returning to it. Our articles don’t become dated in a week or two.
Q. Going forward, what will be the relationship between the print journal and your website?
- AQ cannot be quite as newsy because we are a quarterly, so we hope to be able to continually update our website.
- The website is going to be a repository for information about the Americas—a one-stop shop for those who are interested in the Americas—from social to political to economic issues. And the website is a medium in which people can take what they have read in the print and carry it over to an interactive conversation. Our blog will be a unique space for complementing some of the themes discussed in the print journal.
- The website will allow us to be more democratic, in terms of allowing our readers to comment to us. And we seek to provoke, so the website will be a barometer of how well we are provoking people to think and even react.
- It will allow us to reach people on a much broader level and give people greater access to the topics we are looking at.