Focus - Photojournalism Magazine (1971-1981)

Focus Magazine 1978 cover

In 1971, the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus yearbook, Muse, altered its form from that of the traditional yearbook style to take shape as a quarterly magazine. The first issue, still bearing the name of Muse, was published in the fall by the Student Senate as an entirely student-led work. It documented life and issues on campus and in the Edwardsville community through the use of  hand-drawn illustrations, photographs, essays, and editorials, all created through student efforts.

Two more volumes of Muse were published in 1972, with stories and images covering varying topics such as student groups and campus life, social issues, political events, school athletics and extraordinary individuals on campus. Features were introduced that would become a staple of the magazine in the coming years, such as a “Portfolio” section showcasing student photography of all types and use of student-drawn cartoons.

With the fourth issue, published in March of 1973, the project took on a new name, completing its transformation – Focus. Focus kept the same format, continuing to cover the same wide range of subjects. New consistent features were added as time progressed, including a feature on a year in SIUE’s history (first seen in 1974), a “Back Page” with a final story or set of photos (first seen in 1977), and the “Photographer’s Eye” series, which highlighted a specific student photographer (first seen in 1977).

Ranging 48 to 84 pages over its publication history, the magazine worked to bring attention to ongoing issues of the day, such as protests over the conflict in Vietnam, the black and gay liberation movements, and drug use. The student journalists also covered more local concerns, examining budget issues, ongoing expansion of the Edwardsville campus, and life in surrounding towns. Photo features highlighted individual students, staff, or faculty on campus, examining their daily lives and characteristics and talents that made them unique.

As a photojournalism magazine, Focus was centered on the featured photography, allowing students to experiment with different methods of capturing and editing photos of people, places, or anything they thought to document. Students explored the use of color photographs and different editing techniques, such as post-visualization, in the pages of Focus.

The 27th and final issue was published in October of 1981. Where Focus had formerly contained fifteen or sixteen different features, this final issue contained only nine, the features growing longer instead of more numerous. Spanning roughly ten years, the magazine received the regional Sigma Delta Chi award for best college magazine through the Society of Professional Journalists eight times, and was honored with recognition as the best in the nation in 1973.

Various classes in the journalism department based in reporting, photography, and publication design became associated with the publication through its duration. Several students featured in Focus participated in internships with United Press International, and others went on to careers in journalism, working with newspapers such as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Focus stands as a product of its time, and while some of the issues it addresses are still concerns of the modern day, others appear dated, such as the approach to certain social concerns. However, the magazine preserved the efforts of students from the time, showcasing what was important to them and how they viewed the world, giving insight into a student perspective on the surrounding community and American life as a whole in the decade in which Focus was published.

Focus - Photojournalism Magazine (1971-1981)