Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/October 2012/Op-ed
The Bugle: Past, Present, and Future
- By The ed17
This past month, I left my position as co-editor of the Bugle. Put simply, my time had come; working with the Signpost has sapped the majority of my on-wiki time, and the Bugle needed someone who could dedicate that time to help the other editor, Ian Rose, continue to improve the newsletter. We have found that someone in Nick-D.
I quite enjoyed being a co-editor of the Bugle, and I will always look back with pride on my role of spreading news about one of the best projects on Wikipedia to our editors.
- Ancient history
The Military history Project's newsletter has been published since March 2006, where then-lead coordinator Kirill Lokshin said "We hope that this new format will help members—especially those who may be unable to keep up with some of the rapid developments that tend to occur—find new groups and programs within the project that they may wish to participate in." It was renamed in October 2008 to the Bugle, and we had our first opinion piece in May 2009. Over time, the one-page format became too long as more sections were added, so it was redesigned in June 2010 and again in October 2010. In the same month, we added newsletter editors for the first time, who we hoped would "smooth what has become a complicated publishing process and avoid major delays in sending the newsletter out."
Over these six years, I feel that the Bugle has done a relatively fine job of its core mission: to spread Milhist-related news and current events to our members and other interested editors. We certainly have not been perfect—we provided significantly less information during some months. I also feel that we have done this in an increasingly effective manner; for example, the second redesign allowed us to drop much of the clutter which had plagued the Bugle. Its effectiveness and utility is demonstrated in its reuse in other newsletters, like This Month in GLAM (until last month) and This Month in Education. The move to a multi-page format eased reading and better divided the various sections.
- Living in the 'now'
The quality of the Bugle has remained steady over the last year or so. This is not, in itself, bad—but when there is room for improvement, we should strive to eliminate the space, and while book reviews and op-eds have been successful, there is always room to expand the boundaries. In addition, the time of the co-editors tends to be sharply limited, and they cannot repeatedly come up with creative content to entice readers. The cumulative effect has been felt in the bleeding subscriber list, which has trended downward over the last year.
This op-ed, then, is partly a call for more energy in the Bugle. Part of this will be filled with my departure, but for a truly successful newsletter, the editors cannot be the only ones working on the newsletter. We absolutely need more community input to drive innovative content, which will then bring more interest to the newsletter.
- Looking forward
I hope that the co-editors decide to take the Bugle in radical new directions, but as noted above, we need more community input to achieve these goals. That is why these suggestions are being broadcasted to you: I hope that my ideas will foster more or improved ideas from at least one reader. The op-ed talk page or my own are open for your comments and suggestions. Please use them.
So, my suggestions include:
- Expanding the scope. There's no general history newsletter, so filling this niche would expand our potential readership and, by extension, potential newsletter contributors.
- Eliminating unpopular section(s).
- "Article news" is relatively time-consuming to write and is essentially just a (very long) list. Cutting it in favor of the old-style simple links would focus readers on more in-depth sections.
- Similarly, summarizing project news in prose is, quite simply, boring. Going back to the old-style lists and focusing on perhaps one important piece of news a month might be easier on readers and newsletter editors.
- Expanding the topics of book reviews. As noted by at least one coordinator, the Bugle's reviews tend to focus on the Second World War and Australia—which (rightfully) reflects the interests of the author who normally writes the section. While the quality is always high, more editors interested in different topics are needed.
- Redesign. Given that I had a major hand in the current design, it's painful to say that the current design is rather behind the current standard (the Signpost and/or the current This Month in GLAM) , even if it is still far ahead of other project newsletters. This will probably involve soliciting an outside coder.
- Finding zany op-eds. Perhaps one of the co-editors could email a prominent historian and ask why they think military history is still relevant today? What has/will the internet change(d) in the subject? Does Simon Fowler still think Wikipedia is the best military history resource on the web? How do non-English Wikipedians treat our topic area?
- The ed17 (or "Ed") is a university student who suffers from a borderline obsession with early-twentieth century warships. He is a coordinator of the Military history Project and the editor-in-chief of the Signpost.