Education
10:59 am
Mon July 16, 2012

MU announces "re-imagined" University of Missouri Press

Updated 1:45pm with comments from Provost Brian Foster and new Press Director Speer Morgan

The University of Missouri System announced in May it would be eliminating the University of Missouri Press, and that process officially started July 1st. Today, the University of Missouri-Columbia campus issued the press release below, announcing a new model to serve similar goals of the ill-fated Press.

An important distinction to note is that the old University of Missouri Press was funded through the overarching University of Missouri system, under President Tim Wolfe, to the tune of $400,000 a year. The new University of Missouri Press will be funded by the University of Missouri – the campus in Columbia. Speer Morgan of The Missouri Review will be the Director of the new Press.

“I’ve never spoken with Tim Wolfe, I’ve not had the honor of meeting him, I don’t even know the man,” Morgan said.

Morgan instead has been working with campus leaders, like Provost Brian Foster.

“We’re funding a broader academic enterprise,   it’s not just the press, it’s just a totally different funding model. Part of the funding is going into education, part of it is going into research. There’s the press itself, and of course the press pays for most of its expenses through revenue by selling books,” Foster said.

Foster says part of the press’s mission will be research and instruction on scholarly communication.  He says it will function as a working lab for students, patterned like the Columbia Missourian, KOMU or science labs on campus. And while jobs will be created, it’s mixed news for the 10 people who worked at the old press.

“They’ll obviously be welcome to apply for jobs, for the jobs at the new press. They’ll be competitive as the pool develops. But these will be rather different kinds of positions they’ll be faculty, they’ll have faculty roles,” Foster said.

Morgan will be the one doing the hiring. He says he’ll bring on an editor-in-chief, a managing editor, a publicity person, and at least five graduate interns. He says people working for his Missouri Review will also help with work at the press. Morgan says he hopes to move forward after the very public response by authors, publishers and others, to the old press closing.

“My principal concern is to get beyond that awkwardness and to make sure that we have a press rather than no press at all, and make sure that we find a way to make it as relevant as possible to the future of publishing,” Morgan said.

Morgan says the new press will need to embrace e-books and find new ways to deliver them to readers, and maybe look into new models for books, like multimedia books. But as for what types of titles the new press will produce, he says he expects the new editor and chief will respect the history of the press. He doesn't worry much about the quality of editing the books will receive at the new press.

“I think we’re gonna have enough senior editors here. Because we’ll have two plus several who are working kind of half time at this, so we’re really have five people, who have including the editor, managing editor and people who work at the Missouri review, so we’ll have five senior people. Plus, the graduate students who will work here are not 20 years old and incompetent. They’re typically 30 something or a little older and have quite a bit of experience and also enormous talent,” Morgan said.

Morgan says the new press will be housed on the Columbia campus, in a few rooms in McReynolds Hall. Meantime, Provost Foster says he expects the same amount of books to be published each year as were at the old press, at least at first.

University of Missouri Announces Innovative Scholarly Communication Initiative
MU to Integrate University of Missouri Press with Campuswide Model

COLUMBIA, Mo. — In accordance with its land-grant mission to discover and disseminate new knowledge and to further its commitment to theMizzou Advantage/Media of the Future, the University of Missouri announced today that it is launching a reimagined University of Missouri Press that will use innovative techniques for scholarly communication.

“America’s research universities are at the forefront of creating new knowledge and supporting innovative design and new enterprise development, and that applies to the world of scholarly publishing and dissemination as well,” MU Provost Brian Foster said. “In order to realize the values of such new knowledge, effective communication of information and archiving is essential. This impels MU to address the role of scholarly publishing in the 21st century in books, journals and new electronic forms.”

“Mizzou Advantage is a two-year-old initiative that harnesses the power of inter- and cross-disciplinary research to advance knowledge in four thematic areas. One of these areas is Media of the Future which provides a platform to reinvent the role of university presses in future scholarly communications and outreach to the public,” said MU Chancellor Brady Deaton. “The interdisciplinary foundations of the Mizzou Advantage enable a reimagined press to draw on significant campus strengths such as The Missouri Review and to build on scholarly programs in English, creative writing, communications, journalism, and library and information science,” he added. “We need new models for a new era and this is such a moment for the university.”

“In the past, key players have been university presses, scholarly journals and monographs that educate, disseminate and archive knowledge,” Foster said. “We are entering an era of new and changing information technologies, such as downloading and reading books on mobile devices and inclusion of content beyond visual, such as audio and interactive content. These changes dramatically affect a broad range of media, including presses and other forms of scholarly publishing, while simultaneously presenting new opportunities for students, faculty and the public. For years, university presses across the country have been struggling to adapt to technological innovations – not unlike seismic shifts seen in the newspaper industry and education.”

The director of the new press will be Speer Morgan who currently leads The Missouri Review and who will report to Michael O’Brien, dean of the MU College of Arts and Science. The press will use current and evolving publishing technology, wider campus involvement among closely linked departments, graduate internships or assistantships, and faculty to publish noteworthy titles.

Specifically, Morgan said the new model will digitize and further promote the valuable current catalog of the press with the help of the MU Libraries, as well as publish scholarship that is relevant to the public in a variety of fields. He said it also will radically streamline operations by expanding the already established publishing course. In all, Morgan said he expects future books will continue to be produced in both print and digital formats, embracing the newest publishing technology and possibly multimedia.

In addition, Morgan said the focus of the new press will include:

  • publishing quality work where new titles are carefully evaluated for quality and significance;
  • enhancing the University of Missouri Press trademark by demonstrating the new vision and management of the press;
  • providing effective training of students in 21st century publishing while still operating with economic efficiency for a teaching enterprise; and
  • embracing opportunities created by broad intercampus collaboration, particularly with the School of Journalism.

“The guiding principle of the press will continue to be the quality of the works we publish,” Morgan said. “We will begin an immediate national search for an editor-in-chief who can provide a long-term outlook and strategic plan for the press. That person will have broad editorial authority, will take an entrepreneurial approach by embracing the opportunities presented by new communication technologies, will perform a faculty role in mentoring graduate assistants who work for the press and will expand and enhance the existing University of Missouri Press brand.”

“This new 21st century press will enable the University of Missouri to be an innovator and nationwide leader in university publishing at a time when traditional academic publishing is being challenged to maintain its position as the main venue for scholarly book publishing,” said Deaton. “By launching a press that is creative, cost-effective and in line with the university mission of educating students and advancing knowledge, MU can develop a model for a new kind of university press that effectively integrates a significant publishing enterprise with high-quality, hands-on education and training of students in new publishing technology and practices.”

University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe said the new model for the press is representative of the university’s commitment to scholarly publishing. It will serve as a visionary model for other universities that are struggling to maintain scholarly presses in today’s difficult economic climate. “From the beginning we have stressed the importance of publishing scholarly work, but in a way that takes advantage of the wonderful changes in technology and that does so in an economically viable way,” Wolfe said. “I am proud the University of Missouri can be a leader in developing the next generation of scholarly publishing.”

“This gives us an exciting chance to rethink the methods, the content and the formats of scholarly communication,” said Dean Mills, dean of the Missouri School of Journalism. “We can develop interdisciplinary courses, internships and faculty research that could lead the way to a new model for academic publishing.”

Deaton said Morgan’s innovative and highly successful record with The Missouri Review positions him well to develop a new press model. “Speer Morgan’s leadership of The Missouri Review has been notable for an international reputation of excellence; a proven internship program; experience with print, electronic and digital publishing plus publishing rights and contracts; ability to maximize technology; and a collaborative approach with other campus units, Deaton said.”

The University of Missouri Press will maintain its commitments to current and past authors and will solicit new scholarly works in the coming year.