|The SN gang: (left to right) Carol Rasmussen, Bob Henson, Sally Bates, and Lucy Warner. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)|
Four writer/editors who each have overseen Staff Notes Monthly at some point in the last 23 years sat down recently to trade stories. We couldn't resist the opportunity to hear from these chroniclers of the evolution of UCAR and NCAR, two of whom were soon to depart.
LW: When Sally came in, she created principles for what we did and did not cover and built a philosophy for Staff Notes as a serious vehicle that will cover the science but won't do recipes, that will cover retirements but [not letters from retirees]. All that got laid down by Sally, and it's still in place.
SB: I came from a magazine. If you don't do audience analysis and
you don't figure out what it is you're putting out and why, you're
in deep trouble very quickly
When Sally arrived, SN was being typeset on an IBM Selectric typewriter, and the newsletter came off the presses at NCAR's former in-house print shop. In the mid-1980s, before production shifted to a Macintosh environment, SN briefly used a word- processing system created by the former Boulder-based firm NBI.
SB: It took about a day and a half to do the layout
LW: And it wasn't a full-time job, so you really had to race.
Carol, whose experience included a stint as a reporter at the Newark Star-Ledger along with magazine writing and book editing, was hired in 1983 as a copy editor. When Sally took six months' leave in 1984, Lucy, another experienced writer who had worked in New York and London, was hired as a term employee. Lucy and Carol soon learned that they'd both worked for the same publishing house, R. R. Bowker, in New York.
LW: We would have been around the corner from each other if we'd been there at the same time.
CR: She was at School Library Journal, and I was at Library Journal.
Taking a break from SN, Sally edited the 1984 NCAR annual report. It was the first one that included color images inside as well as on the cover. The memorable black-and-red cover photo by Charlie Semmer spotlighted the helium-neon laser of the tunable laser absorption spectrometer. There was also a graphic showing four different resolutions of the NCAR community climate model.
SB: The other thing in that report I really loved was this graphic
of what the grids [in the model] were. It's still my
Sally recalled bringing the cover of an NCAR annual report featuring an image from HAO to an interview with a director in another division. When he asked her what it was, recalls Sally, "I suddenly realized the scientists were equally isolated from each other," and that SN had a role to play in improving that. She also recalls stopping by a balloon facility while on vacation in the South Island of New Zealand.
SB: Marcel Verstraete ran a balloon facility in New Zealand for NCAR, so I stopped by to see him when I was there in 1984. He was wonderful to me and my family! Besides the balloon launches, Marcel was taking air samples for ACD. He would go out on this little beach, out in the middle of nowhere, with his vacuum bottles. He invited me to come with him. He was sending his vacuum bottles back to [long-time ACD scientist] Leroy Heidt. Well, I'll never forget Leroy saying, There's a huge climate change coming here. I can see it already [from Verstraete's vacuum bottles]. When [global change] first came up, people kept saying, Nah, nah, nah. And Leroy kept saying, Oh, yeah.
BH: I started in 1989. And '88 was the big [year for global warming]. Jim Hansen went to Congress, and Time did a special issue and visited NCAR.
CR: Nuclear winter was [big news] right when I started.
The biggest structural change on Bob's watch was the 1994 transformation of SN from a weekly to a monthly, accompanied by creation of This Week at UCAR as an electronic newsletter for the time-sensitive announcements.
BH: We thought hard about it, did an analysis, and figured out that what made sense was not to go completely electronic, because we were doing fairly long features at times, and we got the sense people didn't want to read that long stuff [on line]. At this point we didn't even have the Netscape browserwe only had Mosaic. But, obviously, it didn't make sense to keep printing a thousand copies of the announcements that could be electronic. [The change] took a little while for people to get used to.
Carol will miss the "eureka" aspect of talking to scientists here.
CR: You go in and you interview a scientist and they've done something they're really excited about. They start talking louder and louder, and they start gesturing. And you get it then. It's being in on the excitement of this discovery, people who are figuring things out that nobody else has ever figured out before, and just getting a chance to see into that world of scientific creativity.
LW: That's what drives this institution, really. And that's what I love most about working here.
SB: It's been a thrill, a real thrill.
CR: Every once in a while, a scientist says to me, "You know, I've always tried to explain to my brother-in-law just what it is I do, and I never was able. I gave him your article, and now he understands."
That's what we're here for. That's our reward.
Edited by Bob Henson,
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Tue Jun 26 15:04:26 MDT 2001