May 12, 2003

Emory's political reviewer

By Eric Rangus

In fall 2001, less than a month into his Emory career, Mitchell Kominsky began looking for extracurricular activities. So, he signed up with The Emory Wheel, the University’s student newspaper. He didn’t like it, though, and after two weeks dropped it.

Undaunted, Kominsky decided to take things into his own hands. He’d start his own publication.

“I was very political in high school,” said Kominsky, a junior from Davie, Fla. Davie is in Broward County in south Florida, the epicenter of the 2000 presidential election—the first one Kominsky voted in. Therefore, a bit of political activism isn’t a surprise.

“I came to Emory and just wanted to do something meaningful here,” he continued. “So, I figured combining my interest in politics with something I’d never done—publication—might be something to ponder.”

The result of that pondering, and a whole lot of work, is the Emory Political Review. EPR is a student-produced publication that strives to present scholarly, non-partisan discussion of past, current and future domestic and foreign political issues. Kominsky is editor-in-chief.

While political activism certainly exists on campus, Emory students—and college students in general—are less political than their elders. Kominsky said voting in the 2000 election was a very big deal to him, but he found few other members of his freshman class who felt the same.

Despite that indifference, Emory is home to politically themed student publications. For instance, The Fire This Time is a student-produced magazine that explores political and social issues important to African Americans.

“The majority of students, I think, have a certain political apathy,” said Kominsky, who had no publishing background—not even on his high school newspaper—before creating EPR. “What was important was having a publication that could be of interest to students, and that means tackling controversial issues such as drugs.”

The cover of EPR’s recently released Spring 2003 edition reads “A Drug Issue,” and the magazine devotes 10 of its 45 pages to the subject, including essays on drug testing, laws designed to curb smoking in public, prescription drugs and even an interview with the editor-in-chief of High Times magazine.

Other thoughtfully presented, student-written stories touch on subjects like U.S.-European relations, Iraq policy and the political troubles in Venezuela. The faculty piece is Associate Professor of History Kathryn Amdur’s story about traveling to India in January with the Claus Halle Institute for Global Learning.

EPR approaches its subjects from a wide range of viewpoints; nonpartisanship, Kominsky said, is one of his primary goals. “I don’t want it to become a conservative-leaning magazine or a liberal-leaning magazine,” said Kominsky, who prefers to keep his own political viewpoints—which he is still exploring—private.

“I don’t think that anyone can clearly relate to a specific party on every issue,” he continued, adding that he has had his mind changed by at least one article he published in EPR.

“Emory and other schools are breeding future politicians and future business people,” Kominsky said. “It’s important for students to have a grip on the issues, and what better way to do that than present them in an interesting way?”

While the subject matter of EPR always has been interesting, the product itself is a work in progress. The first issue, released last spring, was minimalist in design with little in the way of graphics. But its strong content was undeniable.

Writers included Randall Strahan, associate professor of political science, and President Bill Chace. Chace has proven to be particularly supportive of EPR. Not only did he write the page 1 essay of the publication’s first issue, but he also spoke at an EPR-sponsored forum about student leadership and even had dinner with the 10 members of EPR’s editorial board last month.

“Mitchell Kominsky and his colleagues have done a wonderful job in bringing a new, and serious, publication into the Emory intellectual community,” said Chace. “EPR is a thoughtful, searching and impressive magazine, and I look forward to its continuing to publish a wide range of solid contributions to our understanding of political life, both national and international.”

EPR’s Spring 2003 issue represents several dramatic leaps forward. There is a defined format with section headers. The photography is better and even includes a page of political cartoons. The first three issues are archived at

Kominsky is hardly alone in producing the magazine. Members of its 10-person editorial board are each responsible for editing their sections. Outside copy editors are utilized, as well as Margaret Tate, student media advisor.

But it is Kominsky who oversees the entire operation, recruiting writers, having the final edit, leading the discussion of story ideas, hiring and firing staff, and marketing the publication, all the while maintaining a GPA of 3.5.

Kominsky finished the year on a very high note. Not only was EPR’s fourth issue released, but he also was named Leader of the Year at the first Media Council Awards program.

“I was very surprised by that,” said Kominsky, who accepted his award at a banquet in Woodruff Library’s Jones Room on April 7. “It’s humbling, but at the same time, my goal is not to win things for myself but to benefit Emory.”

Any budget concerns are gone as well. Since EPR operated this academic year without a charter from Media Council, Kominsky had to present each product to the council and then ask them to pay for it. He never had a problem getting the cash (each issue costs about $4,000, all of which went to production costs), but it was one more thing to worry about.

Beginning in the fall, EPR has a permanent charter with yearly budget of $18,000. That makes for an average production cost of $6,000 for each of EPR’s three planned issues in 2003–04.

Planning for EPR’s Fall 2003 issue will begin at the start of the semester. Kominsky said there will be a meeting to recruit new writers and editors, with a focus on bringing in freshmen. The completed issue will hit the stands sometime in November.

Kominsky’s long-term goal is to give EPR a national identity—to make it a must-read for students across the country. Already courtesy copies are mailed to some political science departments (Harvard is one), but feedback has been slow. He added that another goal is to develop a subscription service so the publication would available to alumni.

“Of course, the first goal is to establish it at Emory, and it’s moving in that direction,” Kominsky said. “But by the time I graduate, I’d like to expand. What better way to try and accomplish something at Emory besides a big GPA than to create a publication, watch it grow and hopefully—when I come back in 20 years—see it flourish.” Academically, Kominsky, a history major, wants to pursue his master’s in that subject after earning his bachelor’s degree.

In the short term, Kominsky’s summer plans are less ambitious—but no less important. He’s going home to Florida to get a job.

“I’ll try to use my family connections, like most Emory students,” he quipped.