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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, Spring 2020

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

This Spring issue comes to you late in the season, with summer, the season, just weeks away, and Summer, the next issue, in progress and on schedule for an early summer release.

This has been a tumultuous spring, one defined by, first, a global pandemic and, over the past two weeks, a global uprising in response to three brutal murders of unarmed Black citizens at the hands of white people, culminating the latest in a long, 400-year series of cycles of systemic racism and white supremacy in the US. And this particularly virulent virus persists at all levels—the public sector, the private sector, the nonprofit sector—and in a wide range of manifestations, from outright violence that we’ve witnessed to white privilege and its many implications. And this includes IDA and Documentary magazine. Complacency breeds complicity.

Executive Director Simon Kilmurry’s column for this issue articulates what IDA needs to do going forward, both internally and as an organization that serves the documentary community. And the publication of IDA, Documentary, in turn, must continue to expand its coverage and reach with consistent content that addresses the work and issues and concerns germane to the BIPOC community. And this means growing our pool of writers and staff from those communities to deliver a robust slate of reports, features, essays and editorials that provokes further discussions and debates, that in turn begins to foster real systemic change.

As an intrinsic component of IDA, Documentary magazine serves to complement the range of programs and services that the organization offers. But this offering is reciprocal and responsive; while the editorial decision-making ultimately rests with us, the process from concept to delivery is organic and cyclical. What we deliver depends on you, the end-users and the principal stakeholders. It depends on your input, your feedback, your criticism. Our aim is to deliver a publication, in print and online, that is a platform and a forum in which you can take ownership.

And so, here we are with the Spring issue, which, as we announced earlier, is online, as is the forthcoming Summer issue. Since the onset of COVID-19, we’ve had to rethink and rework the content to reflect the devastating impact the pandemic has had on our lives and our careers. When we were in the planning and assigning stages, we were to look at the OTT space and how the SVOD and TVOD platforms have grown with new players that bring new challenges to programmers and content providers alike. We did salvage some of that content, as Addie Morfoot spoke to Jennifer O'Connell, HBO Max's Executive Vice President, Original Non-Fiction & Kids, about how the new channel, with a familiar name, will distinguish itself, not only in a crowded space, but also among its peers in the AT&T/Time-Warner firmament. Morfoot also spotlights the documentary series Home, which streams on Apple TV+, another new player with a hefty brand. Finally, Pat Aufderheide attended a keynote session at IDFA last year about the prospects for streaming for the documentary community in Europe. Guy Bisson from Ampere Analysis, a leading consultancy on video, delivered the keynote, and Aufderheide followed up with him as the pandemic was coursing its way around the world. 

As I write this, schools at every level are concluding their academic years, and the past semester has necessitated a pivot online to Zoom and other platforms. Many in the documentary community also teach, and many shifted to the virtual space for the first time. Tom Gianakopoulos spoke to Marco Williams, Lisa Leeman and Bart Weiss about how the shift has been going for them.

Stay tuned for the Summer issue, which will feature work from each of our 2020 Documentary Magazine Editorial Fellows. 

Yours in actuality,

Tom White