Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Plato Arrives at Publishing Firm; Classics Professor Shares Greek Ideals on Critical Thinking and Creativity with Business Editors

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Plato Arrives at Publishing Firm; Classics Professor Shares Greek Ideals on Critical Thinking and Creativity with Business Editors

Article excerpt

Plato arrives at publishing firm

Suppose Plato and Aristotle were running North American Publishing Company, a business magazine publisher with 12 magazines and two reference books. What would they do?

So asks 47-year-old John Wyatt, professor of classics at the University of Chicago and Beloit College (as well as a linguist, Chekhov translator and part-time farmer). In early August, North American retained Wyatt to lead an unusual one-week seminar on what magazine editors can learn from the classics. More than 50 editorial and promotion employees attended 90-minute morning and afternoon sessions, steeping themselves in such matter as Plato's Protagoras and Aristotle's Poetics.

Protagoras and The Official Export Guide (one of North American's titles) would seem strange bedfellows. Yet president Ned Borowsky, who studied under Wyatt at Beloit College, strongly believed the classics would benefit, even inspire, his editors and promotional copywriters.

Not that there weren't initial concerns. "My fear was whether there would be a relevance to people who have to knock out copy all day,' admits Borowsky. "But the response was tremendous. People's eyes lit up.'

Seminars focused on the classicists' views on writing, critical thinking and creativity, as well as on loftier issues, such as fostering a better sense of community. Like students at the academe of old, attendees discussed clarity and immediacy in communication, the notion of a sublime piece of work, and purpose and meaning in human activity.

The standards of the ancient Greeks are so exacting, says Wyatt, that dutiful writers must approach every word with "fear and trembling. …

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