a legacy of learning

When John Jebaraj James began working on Campus Link magazine, published by Union of Evangelical Students of India (UESI), he had no formal training in writing and editing. The retiring editor and Jebaraj’s mentor, Santosh Kumar, was impressed by the Magazine Training International (MTI) training he had received. He encouraged Jebaraj to attend an MTI publishing conference in the Philippines. What Jebaraj learned there led to a radical transformation of Campus Link. And what he learned, he passed on to others, multiplying its impact.

Jebaraj eagerly absorbed the basics of magazine publishing at the conference. “It was bite-sized and very practical,” he says. Interacting with publishers from around the world broadened his perspective.

Returning to India, he began to shape the magazine to more effectively serve its readers, primarily Christian college students. “We used to have one article, written by a scholar, that would fill all 16 pages,” he says. Realizing the student audience would only read much shorter pieces, he put a cap on the article length. “This helped us have more articles on different topics,” he says. The magazine could now serve all three types of readers: Christian students, UESI staff, and supporters of the ministry. He recruited believers from all three groups to write articles, spurring one another on to evangelism and discipleship.

Jebaraj began to take advantage of other MTI resources to improve the magazine. He used the example in an MTI booklet on design to redesign Campus Link‘s layout.

Jebaraj continued to learn and apply publishing principles from MTI. His wife, Joy, volunteered with the magazine, and they both attended a conference in Bangalore on digital publishing. “We had not launched into social media,” he says. “We were kind of clueless.” The training “showed us baby steps of how to go about it. Because of that training we started a Facebook page and built a website to make the magazine available online” (https://campuslinklive.org).

Eager to keep learning, in his seven years as editor Jebaraj took advantage of 49 training opportunities: onsite conferences, online courses, an online workshop, training videos, and e-books available for download. He and Joy also took a college course in journalism and mass communications. In 2013, Campus Link was named the best Christian magazine in India at the Kingdom Media Conference. “MTI had a tremendous role in that,” he says.

Jebaraj not only applied what he was learning, he passed it on to others. UESI already held an annual national writing workshop. He transformed it to prepare believers not only to write for magazines but to be a Christian voice in media. The workshop now has parallel writing and media tracks. MTI training gave him “a comprehensive package of exactly what I needed to help people starting to communicate through print and other media.”

Along the way Jebaraj shared what he had learned from MTI with the staff of Our Contact, another UESI magazine. Staff of Campus Link and Our Contact have attended six MTI training events in India and, so far, taken advantage of 179 online training opportunities! He also credits MTI training with invigorating his role as book publisher with InterVarsity Publishers India.

What would he say to publishers interested in MTI training? “It will be new, refreshing, and provide a networking opportunity as well. Your magazine will not be the same. It will evolve into new dimensions and have stronger impact.”

Jebaraj eventually moved on to another position in the ministry. But the improvements he made in Campus Link as the editor and his legacy of continual learning live on in UESI’s publishing ministry. He summarizes the philosophy that keeps Campus Link evolving into an increasingly effective tool: “We have to keep learning; otherwise we will soon become obsolete.”

by Susan Nikaido, MTI trainer

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Magazine Training International’s mission is to encourage, strengthen, and provide training and resources to Christian magazine publishers as they seek to build the church and reach their societies for Christ.