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Showing their mettle

May 18, 2009


Channy and Alexei Moon Casselle.

Mettle's stories include a look at how local musicians like Channy and Alexei Moon Casselle (pictured) are important to cash-strapped young fans.

Photo illustration by Erika Gratz

Student-produced magazine examines impact of recession on millennial generation

By Rick Moore

For Emily Stickler, a graduating senior in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, there have been two pressing questions this spring.

The big-picture question involves her chosen field: Where is journalism heading, with newspapers going bankrupt and other media outlets cutting their staffs? The second question was more immediate. As editor-in-chief of the magazine her class—Magazine Editing and Production—would produce, what should be the featured topic for the publication?

There may be no easy answer for the first question, but Stickler and her fellow classmates arrived at a very appropriate answer to the second. They produced an impressive magazine (and a companion online site) called Mettle that takes an in-depth look at the current recession and its effect on the millennial generation.

"It was the most substantial topic, and I think it's really something that's necessary [to talk about] right now," Stickler says.

"In brainstorming for this magazine and its online counterpart, I realized that I am surrounded by [the] future face of journalism," she notes in her Letter from the Editor. "We, as graduates, need to take hold of this changing profession and find an outlet to successfully deliver high-quality editorial and artistic content to the public during these tumultuous times."

How they do that after graduation is to be determined. But the end product of the students' "capstone" course is impressive. The print version of Mettle is a glossy 40-page magazine (not counting a financial-themed crossword puzzle on the inside back cover), complete with timely and interesting stories, compelling photographs and photo illustrations, and a very appealing design.

The content addresses the recession from A to Z, and does so "through a Generation-Y-specific lens," notes Stickler. Stories include advice on how to handle student debt loads and a look at how the federal stimulus package will—or won't—help new graduates find jobs. There is also a feature on how more young people are "investing" in their spirituality, and a first-person account of the mental bliss available through a Bikram yoga—a.k.a. "hot yoga"—class. There's even an eight-page Vogue-esque pictorial, "High Fashion in Low Times: How the economy and fashion are stitched together."

Mettle online

One of the obvious shifts in journalism over the last few years is the move to more online, multimedia content. And the online version of Mettle is a robust example of just what that can entail.

On the Web site, you'll find all the stories from the printed Mettle, plus a bevy of bonus features: slide shows, numerous blog entries related to the economy and the recession (dating back to early in the semester), and even a two-part cooking video under the name "Thrifty Kitchen" that shows viewers how to make a French lentil salad.

The whole package—magazine plus online content—boils to down to students telling stories about the recession for fellow students.

"We often read about how the recession impacts people in the middle of their career, but we don't hear about the realities of moving into the workforce," says Elizabeth Larsen, who, along with Jeanne Schacht, co-taught the course. "Mettle offers an insider's look into what young people are going through right now."

It also offered the 20 students in the class—who assumed various production roles from managing and senior editors to Web editors and writers—an inside look at what it takes to produce a substantial product in just a few short months. And Stickler says the feedback has been positive. "People are enjoying, esthetically, how things blend together and carry over from page to page.

Get a copy of Mettle

There are still a limited number of copies of the print version of Mettle. For information on obtaining one, contact managing editor Erika Gratz at grat0035@umn.edu

Even though the outlook for journalism graduates entering the workforce may not be quite as bright as in years past, the talents of Stickler and her peers may eventually be more in demand. "Being able to transfer our skills to an online format is going to be especially essential," she says.

"I believe in the value of journalism and the value of telling stories," she adds. And those stories become more all the more important when they're relevant, as the recession certainly is for today's graduates.

The tagline for Mettle may sum it up best. "Tough times don't last. Tough people do." Adds Stickler: "And we're here to tell their stories."

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Mettle online