One of the first pieces senior Blake Buthod vividly remembers writing and publishing was an article of 11 things to do when there’s a preacher at the mall.
“I never would have come up with that idea if I wasn’t in that creative space,” Buthod said. “There were a lot of interesting ideas [that] have come up from gatherings like that.”
Buthod’s creative space is The Monitor, a Truman State University publication where he is the current president. Once a month, The Monitor publishes poetry, prose, visuals, essays and articles, as part of the publication’s main goal to be an outlet for Truman students and the community.
“The main goal is to provide an uncensored, public platform for members of the Truman community to express themselves freely in whatever form that can take,” said senior Will Chaney, The Monitor staff member.
Because The Monitor opposes censoring, Buthod said it publishes pieces including swearing and nudity, and anything is publishable so long as it does not violate The Monitor’s risk policies such as putting someone in danger or being hateful. That line has never been crossed.
“This is a University extensively for adults — sexually active adults who should be copesthetic with an artistic depiction of a nude woman,” said senior Ben Wallis, The Monitor vice president.
One of the hallmarks of The Monitor is the large number of anonymous submissions. This, Wallis said, is because much of the content is personal. There are many pieces dealing with mental health and depression, and some people might feel publishing anonymously can be cathartic. They might not attribute a piece because it could potentially damage the author’s reputation, like engaging in reckless behavior such as speeding down a highway.
The Monitor goes through several stages before publication, including gathering submissions, reviewing and assembling the works, uploading submissions online, sending the magazine to print, and distributing the copies across campus.
Current and former Truman students and anyone from the Kirksville community can submit work, Wallis said. The content is largely focused on Truman students because emphasis and recruitment are aimed at the Truman community. When submissions close, there is an assembly party where The Monitor members gather at a member’s house and decide how to put the magazine together.
“We typically download everything and then read through everything, make sure for content, spelling, grammar, mistakes we know are OK to correct, and then we lay everything out,” Buthod said.
The Monitor does not commission any work. Other publications are conscious and hyper-aware of what content goes into issues, and The Monitor is the exact opposite, Buthod said. It is all dependent on what kind of content the magazine received that month, which could include a lot of artwork or barely any at all, he said.
“Consistency is not something that we are concerned with or trying to obtain,” Buthod said. “So it’s really just supply and demand. Whatever we get in our submissions boxes is what we are going to be publishing.”
The Monitor members usually try to squeeze in as much content as possible in each magazine on a first-come-first-serve basis because space is limited, Buthod said. Members divide their time between editing pieces, designing layout, curating artwork and organizing advertisements and upcoming events. The printer then sends copies of the publication without being folded and stapled, so the members manually do this. In addition to saving cost, there is a social side to this because members can talk while they work, Buthod said.
The organizational dynamic of The Monitor is very horizontal, Chaney said. Everybody is able to say what they think, he said, and everybody has the agency to step up and complete the work.
Wallis said being part of The Monitor has given members a new appreciation for the artistic skill of the Truman community. He said often students go about their daily lives attending classes, getting food, and meeting people without having the time to talk to them and think about them as individuals with thoughts and desires. Wallis said he thinks members and writers are motivated to submit, not by money, but by the need to share their work.
“This is just something [writers] need to do, and it brings new light to your social understanding of people in this school and in this community,” Wallis said. “You realize they are complex human beings that desire a way to express themselves.”
“People don’t know what sort of art they need until they see it,” Buthod said. “I encourage people to take advantage of different opportunities on campus and get their work out there.”