Ten tables were arranged in a circle with three chairs at each to accommodate seating for the Buzzsaw Reunion roundtable event in Park 277. As students began to pour in, it was clear the room was ill-equipped for the crowd. More chairs were brought into the circle, but even with the additional seating, a crowd of students was still left clustered against the wall when the discussion began.
The larger–than–expected turnout was for Buzzsaw magazine’s 20th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, Buzzsaw alumni organized roundtables, master classes, classroom visits, panels and an ending reception in an event from Oct. 24 to 25. Buzzsaw is Ithaca College’s student–run magazine that publishes a few times a semester. The magazine does not have a set production schedule and publishes an array of genres including news articles, features, creative writing and satire.
The event was orchestrated by alumni and Buzzsaw co-founder Cole Louison ’00 as a reunion for Buzzsaw alumni and as a way for those alumni to connect with current students working on the magazine.
“Meeting the current staff and planning the reunion, you see the same group of smart, dedicated students, as we were, dedicated to what they are doing,” Louison said.
Audra Joiner, current Upfront co-editor of Buzzsaw, has been communicating with Louison for over a year to organize the event.
“I was blown away at the first event when it was standing room only,” Joiner said. “There were so many people, and so many people asking really insightful questions.”
At the start of the roundtable, the event that commenced the two-day celebration, Louison and his fellow co-founder, Sam Costello ’00, told Buzzsaw’s origin story.
The idea for Buzzsaw started circulating in the Campus Center Dining Hall in Fall 1999 while Louison and Costello were eating dinner with their friends and fellow Buzzsaw founders. Louison and much of the original Buzzsaw team met while working on The Ithacan but had recently left due to a disagreement with how the paper was run. The students’ frustrations with The Ithacan led them discussing the idea of starting their own publication.
At the time, Louison and Costello were enrolled in a critical journalism course taught by Ben Crane. Louison said he was interested in the long–form stories that were commonly published in magazines at the time. Prior to Buzzsaw, there was no outlet for longer stories or a way for Louison and Costello to implement what they learned in class, they said. Louison said he wanted to create a place where he could put his knowledge into practice.
“Some people are just happy to study a thing or observe it,” Louison said. “And then there are the people who want to put their hands on it and see how it works and maybe try it themselves, and that was our experience.”
Louison said the magazine became a reality when Costello began looking for a printer to produce it. After finding a printer located an hour away in Chenango Bridge, New York, the students began working on Buzzsaw in Costello and Louison’s dorm room. Buzzsaw was originally paid for by the students working on it, Costello said. It was not until the second year of production that the magazine earned began receiving funding from the student government.
“Now, you could have a blog, or a Tumblr, or really publish yourself anywhere,” Costello said. “That didn’t really exist then. Even if you had those ideas and were excited about it, you had to find an outlet for it, and [Buzzsaw] was that outlet.”
Once they finished production, Costello and Louison headed out before the crack of dawn one winter morning and drove to Chenango Bridge to pick up the first issue of Buzzsaw.
“Sam and I were bundled up,” Louison said. “It was freezing cold, and a guy in coveralls walked out with a hand truck, the kind they move refrigerators with, and stacked on the truck were bales of Buzzsaw issue one wrapped up in twine. And then we went to Denny’s.”
The first few issues of Buzzsaw were printed in black and white ink on newsprint — a far cry from the colored and glossy covers used by the magazine today.
Buzzsaw will publish its “Puberty” edition within the next couple of weeks, Joiner said. She said this issue will focus on radical change and the discomfort of growing up. For November, Buzzsaw has a “Space” issue planned that will focus on humanity’s expanding knowledge of the universe and personal, public and safe spaces that humans occupy on Earth.
“I feel like Buzzsaw is really coming into its own right now,” Joiner said. “When I got here, it was a little disorganized, but I’m really excited because … I really feel like the people who are doing it right now are really passionate.”
Joiner also said that as Buzzsaw continues to evolve, and that she hopes the staff can preserve its relationship with alumni to have more events like this in the future and to continue to develop Buzzsaw’s relationship with the campus.
“I really hope we can continue to have the new and upcoming voices we’ve always had since I got here,” Joiner said. “I’m really hoping we can … get our readership a little higher and continue this union of alumni and current staff members. I really enjoyed talking to the alumni. … They had a lot to say that has really benefited us as an organization, but also as a campus as a whole.”