My Eyes, Tamir Rauner
Einayim (Eyes) is a multidisciplinary monthly published by the Haaretz Group, designed for children from six to thirteen. The monthly was first published in 1994 and dealt with a wide variety of topics – culture, science, art, nature and creativity. Each issue was devoted to one main topic which was examined from numerous viewpoints. The monthly is a kind of children’s version of its older brother, Mishkafayim (glasses), a journal for youth and adults published by the Youth Wing of the Israel Museum. Each issue of 64-page demonstrates high quality and a high degree of meticulousness. Well-known artist and experts in various fields participate. Tamir Rauner is the editor-in-chief of Einayim from its beginnings, and was the editor-in-chief of Mishkafayim in its first nine years.
I have been the editor-in-chief of Einayim from its inception, but still begin every issue anew. I have ideas and plans for each new issue, but my basic position is one of beginning. In general terms, I do not have complete knowledge about how a children’s paper should be. I think that my editorial style in Einayim is affected by the fact that I began as the editor of Mishkafayim, which was created in the Israel Museum, and from the fact that the museums’ first partner in publishing Mishkafayim was the weekly, Koteret Rashit, whose editors at the time were Nahum Barnea and Tom Segev.
Unlike Einayim, most of the children’s papers published in the past in Israel were weeklies in which the dimension of current events in all spheres was apparent. This kind of knowledge, if of high quality, meets an important need of children, and from this point of view, Einayim does not assume to be a substitute for the children’s newspapers of yesteryear. Its main importance lies in deepening and broadening its readers’ cultural foundations. People often ask me “Who is Einayim’s imaginary or ideal reader?” and in market jargon– “Who is the paper’s target audience?” I avoid such questions as much as possible. I reflect and think about the different opinions I hear around me – voiced by professionals, parents and children too. But ultimately, I think of my target audience or “imaginary reader” only a small part of the time that I devote to this magazine. I am aware of the fact that numerous children read Einayim, and with them an even greater number of parents, who closely follow the content. But mostly I speak to myself.
However, I observe one rule religiously: despite the constant new considerations regarding the paper, and despite the fact that the boundaries between what is right and what is wrong are not rigid, I practice a great deal of care and maintain a strong safety net when protecting children in two areas – violence and sex. On these two subjects, in which the danger of severe damage is great, I never forget the fact that my readers are children.
The perception of partial detachment from my imaginary readers, or what is called my ‘target audience’ relates to all stages of the magazine’s preparation. “Do not write or draw for children,” I often beg those participating in the magazine. “And in general, do not work in an attempt to meet the desire of anyone. Write or draw for yourselves. If it is unsuitable for children, we’ll deal with that later. Things that cannot be adapted for children, will not be published.” I believe that the question of what is suitable for children comes after, and not before, the stages of work, or at the same time.
Alongside strict adherence to precision in the information that appears in the magazine, and alongside well-grounded considerations and rules, there is a wide area of not knowing what occurs in the encounter between the magazine and its readers, and thus numerous decisions are made based on intuition. This approach necessarily involves coincidence and distraction, but it often turns out that in retrospect these cases in particular make the most important contribution to the paper, an event that would not have been possible if all editorial decisions were taken with full command.
I am often asked about the significance of a children’s paper in the 2000s.The world of the media and culture, including the sphere that appeals to children, has undergone great change. Naturally, Einayim is the product of a specific time and place. It is different from the children’s papers published in Israel in past years. It is different from what it used to be in the past, and definitely different from contemporary children’s papers that belong and are suitable to our times.
I will try to formulate my guiding principle: when editing a children’s magazine in the 2000s I intend to go with the flow of cultural, content-related and technical changes of the times, but will not do anything that seems artificial in order to demonstrate my awareness of these changes, and certainly not at the expense of impairing the magazine’s quality, character, and cultural value. Einayim does not resemble the magazine as it was in the past, but neither does it make the mistake of trying to simulate a magazine in the future. In addition, it is not meant for the ‘contemporary child’, or for any other model of an imagined child.
Einayim exists in an environment replete with digital content sources. In this environment a magazine plays an important role in categorizing and selecting content. Despite the fact that the magazine has a tablet application, and despite the fact that a great deal of Internet communication is conducted between its readers and the magazine’s editorial board on its Internet site and its tablet application, our main stage is still the printed issue – for all its aesthetics, materiality and yes, conformity. Einayim is a source of content, and as such can be communicated on all media – prints, Internet sites, tablet applications, television, films on the Internet, and more. Every time the medium changes, new opportunities are opened for Einayim which we attempt to adopt without impairing the old medium, with all its advantages and disadvantages. The conservative dimension is an essential component in the perception of Einayim, a journal that seeks to shed light on the numerous layers of culture and the diverse cultures in our world, based on a complex and profound processing of the present, and combining it into the past and the future. In today’s cultural world even innovative and daring content are still written in ancient letters and words, and as in the animal world, where even the best mutations are a manipulation that takes place in an ancient genetic environment, thus cultural insights, advanced as they may be, still germinate in multi-layered and multi-period soil.
Like all media tools and like all those attentive to them – mothers, fathers, siblings and teachers – Einayim is also an educator. I do not mean that my editorial colleagues maintain an educational agenda which constitutes the basis for preparing topics for the magazines; what I mean is that we use our discretion at all times when preparing the paper, we are constantly aware of the educational impact our deliberations may have, in other words, the magazine’s content. Thus, the moral consideration is the overriding one in editing the paper, and we do not refrain from raising political issues if they are moral issues that have a natural place in a journal, and are related to the main topic of the specific issue. The idea of ‘a proper society’ is an important moral issue, and Einayim, with its modest capacities, contributes to cultivating social involvement in this sphere as a qualitative cultural and multi-cultural agent. Like Davar Leyeladim, Einayim may also perhaps ‘raise a thinking reader’.
I do not know how one writes for children, just as I do not know how to define good writing in general. I also find it hard to answer the question ‘what is a good story’, despite the fact that it often seems to me that I can pick one out. Perhaps one may say that an informative article is good if it is lucid and comprehensible, but this is not enough, since it should also offer an aesthetic-artistic experience, and consequently leaving some ambiguity is also valuable.
Just as it is hard to define what makes a good story, I do not know how to explain what makes a good illustration. However, despite it all, I can talk about several characteristics that seem right to me for Einayim. In my view, the illustrations in this journal should not be ‘illustrations for children’, and definitely should not be illustrations whose creators intended them appropriate for routine perceptions of what children like and what is suitable for them. Sometimes Einayim has illustrations that are the work of artists that were not created as illustrations. At times the illustrations are “not easily digested’ and definitely are not nice or sweet. In most instances they are not ‘beautiful in the external sense of the word, but rather beautiful in the deeper meaning. Sometimes their ugliness is what makes them beautiful.
The instructions given to Einayim’s writers and illustrators change from article to article. At times the instructions are well-defined and expectations from the illustrators or writers are quite clear, and at times instructions are extremely general or there are no instructions at all. When the topic of the article or report makes it possible for me not to give instructions to the writers and illustrators, the artists enjoy working without having to depend on my restrictive definitions. In most cases this freedom produces finer, more beautiful and successful results than when freedom is limited. However, there are numerous instances in which my well-defined demands of writers and illustrators are what create a fruitful encounter that gives birth to creation.
We in Einayim are attentive to what is happening in Israel and abroad vis-à-vis children’s media and culture, and also to what is happening in general and what is relevant to us. We are also attentive to our readers, and when we understand them and agree with their ideas, we try to carry them out. But, we do not give priority to these external matters – we do not conduct surveys, so as not to be pressurized to take them into consideration, and we will not apply anything that is not right or good or appropriate in our opinion, even if numerous readers ask for it.
At times Einayim publishes articles whose level seems too high for our magazine readers. This is not a mistake on our part, but rather intentional: these articles are always related to the main topic of the issue, and it is important that such material appears in the paper, even if it is reasonable to assume that the children will not fully understand it. In my opinion, not only is there nothing wrong in the fact that a far-ranging paper like Einayim includes one article, and even two or more, that not all children will be able to understand (and there may be some who will not even want to read them), but on the contrary, I think it is worthy to print puzzling material. Some of these articles will be understood when reading them at a later stage, and some will remain incomprehensible even then. I believe that the feeling that something still needs to be deciphered and studied is important and even pleasing. This feeling represents a natural and desirable state of affairs for children and adults everywhere, and in all realms of life. I know that there is nothing original in what I have said: adults, and even experts in their field, never understand everything completely. It is those things that are not fully understood that boost development. In fact, it is not only that children do not have to understand everything, they should not understand everything. The fact that experts and writers on the highest levels in all fields – science, art, literature, Judaism, history and more – participate in Einayim, enables the magazine to raise issues more profoundly without relinquishing simplicity.
People are often told to speak to children at eye level. I am not sure which eyes they are talking about, but if they mean the eye level of children – it is not my way. I speak at my own eye level, and only when adjustments seem proper and necessary, do I make them. When choosing a topic the first thing I do is to ask myself what interests me. Later I try to look at it through the eyes of children, but at no stage do I cease to consider things by my own neither yardsticks, nor do I abandon what seems right to me because of what I imagine may interest children. In other words, I try to make sure that Einayim does not express the wishes of children but rather teaches and offers them new wishes; at time I am successful and they assimilate these wishes, which in turn interest them and appeal to them.
The journal’s design is carried out in each issue afresh, but at the same time it also reflects our history.
A large part of the basic design which Avner Avrahami planned in Mishkafayim, is still noticeable in Einayim. Eitan Kedmi’s impact is also obvious; he designed the majority of the issues of Mishkafayim, and later the first issues of Einayim. The new and contemporary design was carried out by designers Vali Mintzi and Michal Bonano. The two had significant influence over what the journal ultimately became. From the early days until now Einayim is a central stage for many of the finest illustrators. Using the work of many illustrators – both veteran and new, and those who join every year after graduating from schools of design and illustration – is a conscious act on our part, based on the perception of the leading role illustration plays in the magazine. Einayim attributes great importance to its visual side, no less that to the text. This has been the case since the inception of Mishkafayim in the Israel Museum. In fact, from the very beginning - from Mishkafayim through Einayim of today - we always regarded the journal an art book. Our close and meticulous supervision of all production stages will attest to this.
The list of subscribers to Einayim shows that children throughout Israel are its readers. Naturally, and also based on our beliefs, the stories, photographs of children and creative environments in the journal are typified by the simple life, and do not underscore expensive equipment, designer clothing or luxurious homes.
About one third of the pages in every issue is devoted to ten regular sections that enable readers to express themselves in various ways. In some sections the readers are asked to answer questions that involve thought, in others they are offered projects in which they create texts, drawings or photographs, according to a pre-set subject or instructions. Some of the answers are published in the journal. Thus readers are confronted with diverse thinking challenges on different levels of complexity.
I have a Riddle is a section which poses riddles that have an accentuated visual dimension.
In the With Your Eyes Shut section there are twenty questions whose answers can be found in the articles that appear in that issue, and modelled strips in the illustrations allude to the places where the answers are hiding.
Meeting Eye to Eye – Discussion Groups is a section that documents a meeting of children and the editor (with me) for a discussion of the topic that will be the main topic of the next issue. The meetings are conducted every month with a different group of readers.
Draw Me a Picture is a section that simulates a master class with leading artists who offer the children instructions for drawing a picture relating to the topic of the upcoming issue. The children draw pictures and send them to the magazine by uploading them onto the Internet site. The artists then choose about five or six and write, and offer professional feedback in the magazine. The pictures which were sent to the editorial board and were not published appear on the Einayim website.
My photograph is a section similar to Draw Me a Picture, but the assignment is to take a photograph related to the topic of the next issue. The children receive feedback in the master class style.
The World Through My Eyes is the section in which the children can ask a psychologist questions and write about personal problems that preoccupy them, and the psychologist answers. Some of the responses appear in the issue – in most cases under a pseudonym – and others are sent directly to the readers. This section also publishes readers’ drawings, stories and poems.
The Unfinished Story section is a regular section in which a story with no ending is published, and the readers are invited to complete it.
The Unfinished Comic Strip is a similar section, in which the readers are asked to write and illustrate an ending to a comics strip.