History | The American Word

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An American University student-run magazine since 1999


admin | 8/26/13 10:32pm

Our magazine began in the fall of 1999 as “The American Word,” which was later changed to “American Word.” Original contributing members of the publication included Ben Kendrick, Leah Krauss, Alex Lucas, Shani Nizan, Lydia Holden, Nate Parham and Keith Kaminski (who wrote the entire website code by hand), among others. They were greatly assisted by Writing Center Director Dr. Janet Auten as well as writing instructor, professor Cynthia Bair Van Dam.

The original staff  created the magazine because a faction on campus became discontent with the other media outlets. They felt the other media organizations had become too complacent and too stale. They wanted to create another outlet for students to express their creativity and practice quality journalism.

“The American Word” became a subsidiary of the media board in 1999 and produced its first publications in the spring of 1999. The organization began with no budget, no office space and members working out of their dorm rooms and stealing copy cards from the library to cover basic office supply expenses.

Ben Kendrick and Leah Krauss ran the magazine, which was produced bi-monthly in an online format from 1999 until 2003 when Leah graduated from AU. During that time, “American Word” was granted office space, a computer and digital camera, a stipend for its editor-in-chief and an expanded budget of around $2,000.

In the spring of 2002, the constitution of the media board was re-written in an effort to streamline budget disputes that had plagued the organization for years. During the re-writing process, the American Word was recognized as being a crucial part of the American University media community. This was due, in part, to the fact that Ben Kendrick was the longest serving member of the media board at that time, having been on the board since his freshman year in the spring of 1999.

Consequently, the American Word elevated its status from “media board member” under the direction of the media board, to full media board partner. Moreover, the members of the media board during that time made a pledge not to let any other member organization fail. In essence, the media board assumed an obligation to support the American Word in times of hardship.

This commitment proved to be the most important victory for us because in 2003 it fell on tough times. In the fall of 2003, leadership of American Word, was taken over by Cristina Sousa. She tried to bring a more music and D.C. events focus to the American Word and led the magazine from 2003 until 2004.

After she exited the editor-in-chief position, most of her writers and staff moved on and the American Word became an entity on paper only. It struggled during this time both with membership and readership. However, by virtue of being a member of the media board, the media board directors were obligated to keep the organization running.

At this point, Adam Glazer and his staff resurrected the magazine in 2005 when he was given a $3,000 budget in the first year. With that small budget though, the magazine was able to buy the necessary software to properly run American Word. The staff made it into an online publication that was updated every other week (for the most part) and put out two print publications (one per semester) in the first year.

From that success, Adam was able to convince the powers that be to give the magazine a $10,000 budget in second year, and the magazine managed to put out four print editions per semester, on top of their bi-weekly online updates. Adam and the subsequent editors, writers, webmasters and supporters of the magazine revitalized what was a dying organization and have moved it into new heights of productivity.

*Note: This detailed history of our magazine was primarily written by The American Word’s founder, Ben Kendrick. Leah Krauss, Adam Glazer and Tara Shubbuck were also instrumental in crafting this page. If you have any information to add, are a former editor-in-chief or would like to correct any information, please contact us.