University News

Going My Way
Editor Norman Boucher says goodbye to the BAM

By Norman Boucher / May/June 2018
May 15th, 2018

I love my job, which I often claim is the best nonacademic job at Brown. Editing this magazine allows me to find stories worth telling you and to help writers tell them well. When the BAM team and I succeed, something in our stories surprises you, challenges your preconceptions, or shows you something you didn’t already know.  

It’s a job I’m never entirely away from. Since I  joined the magazine as managing editor in 1994, I don’t think there’s been a day when I haven’t spent at least a few minutes thinking about how the BAM could be better: Maybe a writer needs to do one more interview, or we need one more sketch to get a cover just right. Have we checked all our facts? How’s our budget doing? Are we telling our stories fairly and accurately? 

After 24 years at the BAM—20 as its editor and publisher—I’ve decided this will be my last issue. I’ve often thought there should be a term limit for magazine editors, and 20 years seems about right. My passion for the work remains undiminished, but my working life has been more or less divided into 20-year blocks. I’m due to start a new one.

What a privilege it’s been to edit this magazine during a transformational time in Brown’s history.  I’ve reported on five presidents, including Gordon Gee, about whom I wrote “The Unfinished Presidency,” and Ruth Simmons, who gave Brown the courage to believe in itself as never before. If journalism is a first draft of history, I am lucky to have had a hand in writing it. 

When I’ve been asked which is my favorite BAM of the past 24 years, I find myself coming back to our November/December 2001 issue, which was not only a journalistic coup for the staff, but our best portrait of a temporarily unified Brown community.

The highlight of that issue was supposed to be our coverage of Simmons’s October 14 inauguration, a joyous event. Then, on September 11, everything changed. That day’s terrorist attacks were historic on an even greater scale, and with the help of colleagues all over the University, the BAM staff dropped everything and set about reporting a package of stories that I still read with pride. 

We interviewed the families of every Brown alum who died that day and wrote a profile of each. We wrote about the Brown first-responders who rushed to lower Manhattan, and we published both the thoughts of a student wondering whether his father had gotten out of the World Trade Center alive and those of his alumnus father trying to get word to his family as he ran for safety. We even published a professor’s essay on fighting terrorism. I still don’t know how we did it in such a short window of time, but that issue alone, I believe, justifies my 20 years leading the way.

Now I leave to return to my first and greatest passion: writing. What will come of it, I have no idea. But I recall the quote from Simmons’s inauguration that we chose for the cover of that November/December 2001 issue: “Let others go their way, but Brown must be ever insistent on forging its own direction.”

To all of you: thank you.

What do you think?
See what other readers are saying about this article and add your voice. 
Related Issue
May/June 2018