How two students resurrected NYU’s travel magazine

Baedeker, NYU’s long-running travel magazine, fell out of publication due to neglect during the pandemic — until students Jonny Rothberg and Shuhe Ma brought it back to life.


(Courtesy of Sam Winslow)

Juliana Guarracino, Abroad Editor

What happens when an NYU club or organization never transitions to new leadership? Last fall, Stern junior Jonny Rothberg found out. After a backpacking trip in Switzerland, he decided he wanted to share his love for hiking with others at NYU. When looking for a publication he could contribute to using NYU’s student media catalog, however, Rothberg mostly found links to sites that either no longer existed or were no longer being updated, including the university travel magazine, Baedeker.

Instead of continuing his search for an active publication, Rothberg stuck with Baedeker, dove into its archives, and began working to revive the magazine as its editor-in-chief.

Baedeker, a student-run publication dedicated to creative works on the travel and study abroad experiences of NYU students, was running as early as 2007, according to Rothberg. In 2020, after COVID-19 halted travel and disrupted student activities, Baedeker shut down. Without someone new to lead the publication after previous editors-in-chief Kristina Hayhurst and Sam Winslow graduated, it became indefinitely inactive — until Rothberg reached out to the Student Activities Board to relaunch it three years later.

“It’s a really beautiful magazine and it doesn’t deserve to just die,” Rothberg said.

As he began looking into restarting the publication, he recruited his close friend, CAS junior Shuhe Ma, as president. Since then, they have worked to access stagnant accounts, learn about the magazine itself, and plan the first issue, which is scheduled for the spring 2023 semester.

“It’s not doing something just for the resume, something to put on LinkedIn, but something we truly enjoy talking to different strangers, to other people who have different interests than us,” Ma said. “It’s amazing to talk to people who share different experiences from us, people interested in design, writing, who have different skill levels than us. Interacting with those strangers who have now become our friends is a really valuable experience.”  

Ma, an economics major, and Rothberg, who studies business, both felt out of their comfort zone running a travel arts magazine, but found excitement in the new endeavor.

“We’re business students at the end of the day. It’s a completely new skill that is demanded. I never heard of terms like Adobe InDesign or Illustrator,” Rothberg said. “For me, at least, there’s almost a romanticization to gathering up all these people, several dozens of people, all of us toiling away for a few months to produce a single work of art. That in itself, just art for the sake of art — not for readership, not to get people to visit the Global Programs Office — just for the sake of mastery and work, there’s something beautiful about that.” 

From reaching out to previous editors and finalizing a budget to revamping the website and creating flyers for Club Fest, Rothberg and Ma have had a lot on their plate. They’ve had to figure out how to manage an organization collaboratively and have become closer because of it. 

The magazine’s new leadership hopes to leave its mark on this edition by making significant changes and updates. In addition to revamping the design and accepting not just student writers, but also alumni and faculty, they also wanted to reimagine the magazine’s scope. Previously, Baedeker excluded travel pieces about New York City. But for Rothberg and Ma, travel is more than a plane ticket.

Sometimes, as in Rothberg’s case, it can look like a conversation about the Tibetan community in New York City over tea and being gifted a silk scarf at a rug store just a few blocks from campus.

“That was one of the most special experiences I’ve had at NYU so far,” Rothberg said. “That took place three blocks from NYU, and I would consider that travel. That is what I’m trying to drive home through the revival of this organization travel doesn’t require you to go halfway across the world.”

Though Rothberg and Ma are still in the process of recruiting new members and laying out the upcoming issue, they are hopeful that they will be able to publish by the end of the semester. According to Ma, they also received about 160 signups at Club Fest. With these new members, they hope to keep the magazine alive for years to come.

“It contributes to NYU’s cultural tapestry,” Rothberg said. “Baedeker, to us, is not just about us. It’s not just about the people who work for us, it’s not just about the people who read Baedeker — it’s for the people who will never read Baedeker. It’s to contribute to NYU’s culture.”

Contact Juliana Guarracino at [email protected].