CapU’s digital publication aims to connect university community through storytelling

Alisha Samnani // Managing Editor, News Editor
Nathalie Taylor // Photography via Capsule

“That was a really fun project for me—I loved it,” said Tae Hoon Kim. “That was, I think, the moment where I started realizing I love being a photographer, but I wanted to do something. Have a role where we—where I could do a little more than just take photos for something.”

“Aside from just being abandoned looking at magazines a lot when I was in grad school, one of our capstone classes was a magazine class,” said Kim, adjusting his camera in a futile attempt to create a satisfying Zoom backdrop. “Are you recording audio only, or—?” A sigh of relief washed over the photojournalist’s face upon hearing that visuals were not being recorded.

“I think [there were] eight people in my graduating class? We served as the editorial board for each other’s magazines,” reminisced Kim fondly. “[We would] pitch all the stories that would go in the magazine, and then actually go out and did them—you photographed or wrote the story.”

The feelings that accompanied that project were shared amongst members of Capilano University (CapU)’s communications department, who wanted to go beyond reacting and responding to events. “We don’t always want to be telling stories about what happened in the past,” said Kim. “We want to be able to create and capture those moments as we’re telling the story.”

“A lot of my job [involves] going to events—I’m reacting to things that are happening at those events and capturing images, and then those images are used for different materials—but [our team] didn’t really have an avenue…a project that allowed us to slow down and think deeper about a story.”

The result was Capsule, a digital magazine produced by the university’s Marketing and Digital Experience team, where Kim serves as the digital magazine’s managing editor. “I think one of the reasons that people were drawn to that name was that maybe this could be like a time capsule,” said Kim. “You know—like we’re supposed to capture what CapU was like at certain times throughout their history.”

The 11 members of the Capsule team have plenty of experience producing human-focused content. “There are so many strong storytellers on the team—there’s a lot of former journalists,” said Kim. Collectively, the team has produced work for publications such as The New York Times and Bloomberg News. “In our day-to-day work, we’re always [asking] ‘whose stories? How do we tell this story?’ We were always hoping for a channel that would allow us to go deeper than typical marketing teams.”

Along with providing visuals for CapU media releases and print advertising, the award-winning photographer is often spotted around campus in his role as CapU’s Visual Media Specialist, capturing the day-to-day motions of the institution.

“I think it’s a shame when the only time you hear from an educational institution is when there’s a success. ‘Here’s a person who won an award,’ and that’s it,” said Kim. “That is, of course, important for an educational institution to communicate—but as a team we decided pretty early on that we’re more interested in the why. This person got an award—but what was the journey that took them there?”

Capsule provides a platform for the team to explore the nuances of the campus in ways they previously could not. The team was originally set to launch the online magazine in April, but the pandemic shattered those plans. “There was a time where I was like ‘oh well—I guess this project isn’t happening. Great experience working on these stories,’ but you know… it’s sad.”

Devastated, the team soon began to piece together the remnants of their project. “Someone [suggested] Instagram,” recalled Kim. “It’s not a platform that’s really built for long reading, but we don’t have any other solution, so why don’t we try it?” It worked—the team’s Instagram account has over 300 followers after only two months.

The team launched the majority of their articles as Instagram Stories—something not usually seen in traditional media. “I strongly believe that publications that do stories the best treat photography and video as a whole separate story device. They’d have to be relevant, but they don’t have to mirror exactly what the words are.”

Alongside longform content such as The Life of an RA and A Pandemic Graduation, the team also created a series called 60(ish) Seconds, where members of the CapU community are given a platform to discuss something they have intimate knowledge about.

“Everyone has blind spots. Everyone has their [own] way of seeing the world,” said Kim. “Without the people, we’re just a collection of buildings on a piece of land with a name. It’s the [students, it’s the] faculty, it’s the employees who make up our community.”

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