Unsolicited Suggestions for C&EN

May 16th, 2007

As you know by now, I’m a C&E News superfan. In this week’s edition, editor-in-chief Rudy Baum discusses how he spices up the cover of our favorite chemistry magazine by insisting on variety.  That’s why I like it when he cuts the leash and lets the art editors (directors?) play with the covers. On May 7th, we saw the third (by my count) fancy cover since the 2006 redesign.  The blue and white title bar made a triumphant return, and the cover sported the most centrally-located address label that I can remember (yet required no ugly white box):

Now is probably as good a time as any to unload all of the comments and suggestions I’ve been saving for C&EN:

As much as I hate to say it, I’ve really liked the new “C&EN Photo Gallery” section.  I’m torn, because while I like nice pictures, I am also troubled by some PI’s insistance on finding a pretty picture FOR EVERYTHING. That said, there are times when the crux of an experiment can be explained by a nice picture. Also, some pictures bankrupt of scientific value still have artistic merit.

I think a regular reader/commenter on ChemBark took one of the pictures featured in this week’s gallery. I don’t want to out him/her, but would the mystery photographer enter and sign in, please?

I’d like to see more opinion in C&EN, especially the point-counterpoint pieces. There is a simple method for selecting good pairs of chemists to fight in print. First, the people have to be recognized experts on the subject in question.  You can’t pick a random idiot, but you also can’t pick a big name in a tangential field just because he’s a big name. Second, it’s best if the people you pick are jerks who don’t care about upsetting anyone. Don’t pick writers who mince words—diplomatic writing is less informative and less entertaining.  Give us a duel.  We want to know why someone is wrong, and we don’t want to sift through BS to find out.

My most radical suggestion: C&EN should sponsor a chemical song parody contest.  They could run a full-page call for submissions over several weeks, then post the best songs (top 50?) online and give prizes to the top 5.  I’m sure the contest would drive plenty of traffic to the online edition, and the feature would stand a good chance of getting picked up by Fark, Slashdot, and Boing-Boing.  If money is what motivates the powers that be, think about how this would increase site traffic, and consequently, ad revenue.

That’s it for now, but prepare for a big Big BIG BIG C&E News post on Friday.  Big.


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