Vol. 16 No. 1
Summer 2006




by Jason Matthew Smith

Think back to 1991. The Soviet Union formally ceased to exist that year, thereby officially ending the Cold War and calming the rampant fear and paranoia that had characterized decades of living under the threat of mutually assured destruction. Or, depending on your perspective, the disintegration of the USSR heralded the beginning of rampant fear and paranoia.
The band Nirvana first performed the song “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which, one could argue, officially launched “Grunge” as a musical sub-genre and sub-culture. (Check the collection of any 30-something and you’ll find at least one Nirvana CD.)

We stood in line for Silence of the Lambs and Terminator 2—the former instantly nestling into pop culture by making cannibalism a common topic of conversation. The latter ushered in the era of high-tech, flashy flicks in which a computer-generated character delivered a performance more memorable than its flesh-and-bone counterparts.

Me? I was stumbling through my first year at a junior college in the Texas backwoods, commuting 30 miles a day (one way) and trying desperately to find a radio station that would play “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Here at the U, Chase Peterson was just closing out his presidency. The men’s basketball team was looking pretty good, posting a 17-game winning streak. And the inaugural issue of Continuum was conceived, written, designed, and mailed.

Which means that the magazine has been going strong for 15 years now.
That’s a big deal for any publication. But it’s indicative of a larger trend when it comes to magazines such as ours. Between 1995 and 2005, college and alumni publications represented the fastest growing category of magazines, adding 268 titles during the decade to 971 titles nationally today, according to the American Society of Magazine Editors. The next type of magazine showing vigorous growth (interior design and decorating) clocks in with 98 titles added in those same 10 years. I think that speaks to the power of magazines to tell a university’s story, and to do it well.

In this issue, Continuum’s previous 15 years are commemorated with reflections offered by the magazine’s three former editors. What I find most striking about these talented and skilled wordsmiths is how they share three traits: Unbridled passion for the University of Utah, deep fondness and respect for Continuum and its mission, and constant frustration with having too many great stories but not enough pages to accommodate them. That’s a good problem.

The current team of editors and the art director also choose their favorite Continuum covers. It’s an interesting peek into the varying tastes and preferences of those of us who have made a life’s work of melding words and images.

Finally, writer Kelley J.P. Lindberg takes a look at how the U may be educating students in the next 15 years. Lindberg polled experts across campus to get a sense of what might change at the U by 2021, and what will probably stay the same. This kind of prognosticating always yields intriguing material, but for some of us, it’s downright compelling. When 2021 rolls around, Lindberg’s own son will be on the cusp of graduating from the U, and my daughter will be pulling her U of U application together and preparing for the ACT. They and others in the next generation of Utes have much to look forward to.

What you currently hold in your hands is not just a magazine. It’s 15 years of exploring, wondering, and celebrating. Fifteen years has flown by, as I’m sure most readers would attest. But for me, one of the greatest pleasures of working for Continuum is the ability to stop time just for an instant, by publishing a well-crafted story and arresting images, depicting the U at a particular moment. Yet the University is always changing, always evolving, and there is no shortage of people and ideas to cover.

And that, too, is a good problem.

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