Friday, March 24, 2000

Human rights magazine among elite 'final four'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The University of Cincinnati is going to the Final Four. But not because of Bob Huggins and some athletes in baggy pants.

        In this tournament, the Bearcats are represented by Bert Lockwood. A UC law professor and director of the university's internationally-known Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights, he also serves as the passionate editor-in-chief of Human Rights Quarterly, a publication he edits with 40 of his students.

        Using teamwork to put out a magazine instead of winning games, this group is committed to a higher cause — publishing articles that improve lives by advocating human rights.

        The Quarterly is one of four finalists in the reporting category of the National Magazine Awards, the annual Oscars of the magazine world. Competition this year comes from The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Harper's.

        The competitors are famous. But, Human Rights Quarterly has a good reputation. This Johns Hopkins University Press publication is the top international journal in human rights circles. Those circles happen to be somewhat different — and more meaningful — than, say, Vanity Fair's glitzy orbit.

        Judges picked the category's four finalists from a field of 130 nominated articles. The Quarterly made the cut with “The Rape of Dinah: Civil War in Liberia,” by Kenneth Cain, a New York attorney and former UN peacekeeper in Africa.

        Winners will be announced during a May 3 luncheon at New York's Waldorf Astoria. Bert Lockwood will be there. He doesn't expect the university to pick up his tab or send the pep band and Bearcat cheerleaders to urge him on to victory.

        Sitting in his office on UC's main campus, he said he's used to going his own quiet way. His independence comes from an endowment that funds the institute, whose students travel the world advising governments and promoting human rights.

        Looking properly professorial in a tan corduroy sport coat with leather elbow patches, he told me he's being a realist about being a finalist.

        “The award's prestigious,” he said. “But, it does not have the widespread popularity of the NCAA's Final Four.” So, he does not harbor any illusions of office pools taking bets on the National Magazine Awards.

        Should such a pool materialize, bet on the Quarterly. “Our chances are good,” the professor said. “We've made it this far. And look who we're up against.”

        The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Harper's are “the big boys,” he said. “We're tiny.”

        Worldwide circulation for the Quarterly stands at 1,469. That's dwarfed by The New Yorker's 813,000 and Vanity Fair's 1.1 million. But what the Quarterly lacks in popularity it makes up for in passion.

        Bert Lockwood is dedicated to preserving and extending human rights around the world.

        He instills this dedication in his students at the institute, where he's been the only director in its 20-year history.

        He believes so strongly in this cause, he takes no pay as the Quarterly's editor-in-chief. His writers receive the same princely sum.

        Despite the Quarterly's invisible pay scale, he always receives more articles than he can print. Last year, 320 submissions arrived. Only 32 were published, including Kenneth Cain's unsolicited manuscript on Liberia.

        Bert Lockwood first read the article in the attic of his Clifton home. “After editing this magazine for 18 years, there aren't too many pieces these days that I find myself reading through tears,” he said. “But this was one.”

        The article contains descriptions of genocide and children being taught to kill. While it criticizes the world's peacekeepers for ignoring this tragedy, the piece contains an underlying hope that it won't happen again.

        The power and passion in these articles inspire Bert Lockwood. They keep him editing a journal for free and teaching his students to work for the advancement of human rights around the world. No matter what happens in New York on May 3, I feel he's already won on our behalf.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.