The Civil War Monitor… major kudos for content AND presentation

Posted on September 25, 2011 by


The cover of the premier issue of The Civil War Monitor

Back in the early 70s, my parents subscribed me to a popular Civil War magazine, and, when I received my first issue in the mail, I was beyond dazzled at the cool factor (the cool factor being two-fold… me getting my first magazine subscription… and it having to do with a subject that I enjoyed, even then, immensely). I’ve enjoyed many issues from that, and other magazines, since that day, but, I don’t think I’ve been as excited as I was, on that day in the 70s, until… I received my comp copy of The Civil War Monitor. Truly, I mean that.

Now granted, much has changed since the 70s, to include what “dazzles” me, and I was particularly changed forever between 2007 and 2009, thanks to a grad program that made me very aware of things such as user-centered design and usability. Ultimately, I think I’ve become more obsessed with the engineering involved in innovative content delivery, and less focused on the content itself. I get especially giddy when I see someone taking such steps to deliver the history of the American Civil War.

It was part of this that led up to (just over a year ago) friend Harry Smeltzer putting Terry Johnston (editor-in-chief of the CWM) in touch with me. Since then, Terry has picked my brain (as well as a pool of several others, including Kevin Levin), regularly, and I’ve offered some thoughts along the way, which I hope, even in the smallest of ways, had some influence in the usability of design (print and Web) found in CWM. I can’t remember all we discussed, but in essence, I leaned heaviest on doing something that could put print and Web together, but working parallel to one another… one complementing the other.

Now, certainly, the feel and look (love the decision on the cover art) of the magazine move beyond (a good thing) the traditional presentations found on many a CW mag, I like the blend on the inside as well,  beginning in the “Salvo” section, and rolling through the features. I think one of the smallish morsels that struck a positive chord in me were the “Voices” section (literally, quotes from people who lived that time… with no intervening interpretation by contemporary historians), and the “Parting Shot” (a “word cloud” comparing Davis and Lincoln), because they smacked (in a positive way) of an effort to reach out to the Web-techies, whether they be deep in their interests of the Civil War, or, perhaps, just beginning to test the waters. I also enjoyed the “Figures” and the “Books & Authors” sections… the former which gave figures/numbers into which a reader can sink teeth into, and the latter which not only brought attention to some current books on the market, but also brought in familiar names as reviewers, such as Robert K. Krick, as well as names with which some may not be so familiar.

As far as the meat of the issue, I found that the feature stories “Captive Memories” and “The Work that Remains” were particularly wonderful, and appealed to special interests of my own; the first touching on Andersonville, and the other on the role of women in their efforts to bring the dead of battles home. Good stuff in both there… and I loved their decisions on the images they selected.

The thing about all of this is… there’s stuff for everybody, and that addresses one of the questions that kept me going when talking to Terry… how to reach the largest possible audience with an array of methods and topics.

But… that’s not all.

As many folks in the know are now aware, there is also the electronic arm of the magazine (hence, the current header from that page, seen above) which, in my opinion, puts CWM in a class by itself. See for yourself, here. The point is, the magazine doesn’t begin and end with itself, but maintains an active and fluid presence. In particular, the blog, gives a chance to get into the trenches… which is also very cool for another reason…

As blogger, here, at Cenantua’s blog, Terry has given me the opportunity to post on CWM‘s blog, The Front Line, and I’m here to attest to the fact that this bunch is a great cast of characters (that’s a good word to describe some of them too, let me tell you 🙂 ), with all sorts of interests… which makes for a rich range of content. I’m fortunate to count myself among the likes of Andy Hall (Dead Confederates)Keith Harris (Cosmic America: Civil War History and Memory), Harry Smeltzer (Bull Runnings), Jim Schmidt (Civil War Medicine and Writing), and Craig Swain (To the Sound of the Guns). Again, I think it’s the blend and resulting broad appeal, offered in this bunch, with different personalities and interests, that’s going to make that blog very successful.

Look for this CWM logo on FB and in Twitter

In addition to the print and Web side of the house, be sure to keep up with CWM on Facebook and Twitter.

Speaking of the electronic side of the house at CWM, Blog and Social Media Editor, Laura June Davis, has done a super job at setting things up, and is keeping the flow moving with Tweets and FB comments/suggestions. Great way to start with a premier release!

So, major kudos to Terry Johnston for being the powerhouse behind all that makes this magazine possible! I find myself already looking for the next edition!

I gotta say, it also has me thinkin’ I need to get into the mix of things again, and contribute a couple of articles to the print side of the house.

So, give it a whirl. I think you’ll be glad you did, if you haven’t already.