The Watercooler, a peer-reviewed journal that offers an analysis of contemporary television, was launched by Critical Studies students in Columbia’s Television Department this past February. With the stewardship of staff advisors and adjunct faculty members Elissa Fineman and Ali Beyer, Columbia students have created the school’s first peer-reviewed journal to delve deep into the art of television.
“The idea is that Columbia students don’t just make things, they think about what they make and what they consume,” Fineman said. According to Fineman, the idea for the journal came about from reading student papers. “I kept receiving this amazing work and thought, ‘Why am I the only one reading this?”
The journal was named after a popular television industry phrase. A watercooler show is TV-speak for a show people talk about the following day in social situations (for instance gathering around the watercooler at work).
The journal is run by a small editorial board of about ten students (including two paid positions) that review each of the journal’s submissions and decide which will be published. The Watercooler publishes a new journal three times a year and is supplemented by blog entries that are updated every three weeks.
Each blog tackles a conceptual theme, topics like Antiheroes or Feminism, or sometimes a specific show like Mad Men. The publication is looking to expand in the future by formally connecting with Semester in LA program and including interactive games on their website.
Fineman said that The Watercooler aims for a “transmedia” approach to television and wants to create a forum for all majors. “We’re very interested in getting people from other departments involved – both faculty and students,” she said.
According to Joseph Riedal, a senior television major and the Executive Vice President of The Watercooler, the publication is currently looking for contributors for the May 2011 journal. “We’ll accept any paper from any department as long as it is a critical approach to television,” said Riedal.
Submitted work must be cited, relate to TV in some way and must be of an academic caliber. The deadline for submissions is April 16th and you can submit work online at www.watercoolerjournal.tv or contact The Watercooler directly at 312.369.7413.