media metamorphoses

Yale Publishing Course Will Be International, Business-Oriented

Former Yale University Press Publishing Director Tina Weiner saw an opportunity when two senior advisers to the recently defunct Stanford Publishing Course approached her, hoping to find a new home for their storied program in New Haven. Sensing that there would be a hole in the market without Stanford’s program, Weiner convinced Yale officials to take it on under the aegis of their burgeoning international-studies program. We spoke with Weiner about the new Yale Publishing Course, which will debut this summer at a time when many see the journalism and publishing industries in a steady decline.

So, where did the idea come from?
It was clear that people who went to [the Stanford program] thought it was amazing, and was really something that they weren’t getting somewhere else. There are lots of entry-level courses on publishing, teaching people how to do specific skills. Lots of people who were a little further in their career found that there was no place they could go where they could get really in-depth discussions and not just panels.

So, this was proposed to you by Robert Baensch and Martin Levin, from the Stanford program?
I knew both of them for many years as Yale University Press’s publishing director. They said, “We would love to move this to the East Coast. On the East Coast we think we could get many more people from New York and it would be much more attractive to foreign attendees, because they could also combine it with a visit with New York and publishers there.” Yale does a lot of leadership programs, training programs, and international programs. I thought this could fit in with that.

Can you describe what it will be like?
I’m not sure what Yale faculty will be participating, but there are a lot of people from the publishing world who have signed on. We’re having Kevin McCean, who is VP and editorial director of Consumer’s Union. We’re having Cyndi Leive, editor-in-chief of Glamour. We’re having Dick Stolley, who was senior editorial adviser for Time Inc for a long time.

And it’s a week?
We condensed the course to a week because we heard people didn’t want to be away from their office for so long. That’s why it’s in summer, too. It’s really jam-packed. The meals are meant to be when you discuss more. We wanted like, total immersion.

Talk to me about journalism and publishing at Yale in general. The school just launched an undergraduate-journalism initiative, and is developing a publishing course at a time when a lot of people say the field is shrinking.
Yale doesn’t have a school of journalism, as you know. But I was looking at the Yale alumni database, and there’s huge numbers of people involved in journalism and publishing and media. I’m not the one to speak to that particularly — I brought this because of my background in publishing. But I think one thing that is absolutely true is that Yale is more and more seeing itself as a global university. And this outreach to foreign publishers is another manifestation of that reaching out. Ultimately we hope to have some scholarships for publishers in developing nations.

But I’m wondering how you see this fitting in to the transitional stage the industry is in right now.
Well, when I talk to the speakers and stuff, they’re addressing that. There’ll be sessions specifically not about the past and not about now, and not about looking to the future. What we’re trying to do is to prepare people to think about how you might do things in three years, when things will be totally different.

Why now?
We’re starting this year, it’s quite a tall order to do that, because we wanted to build on the momentum of the Stanford course. Also, we thought that this year more than others — though I think it’s true increasingly every year — is the year of transition. There’s all this new and very rapid change in digital delivery. It’s also coming at a time where the economy is so difficult that you really have to rethink yourself.

What’s the size?
We’re thinking about 80.

Any significant changes from the Stanford program?
It will be a little more business-oriented. I think there’s going to be more international content. … Yale has Yale University Press, which is a fabulous publishing house, so Yale has always been involved in publishing. It is a natural fit.

Yale Publishing Course Will Be International, Business-Oriented