A Blog and Manifesto for Alumni Magazines

April 2, 2010

A new blog -- UMagazinology -- is attempting to support alumni and other college and university magazines that aspire not to just be house organs, but to provide valuable journalism at a time when serious coverage of the arts and sciences is disappearing from many newspapers. The founders of the blog have ties to the alumni magazine at Johns Hopkins University, which has a reputation for the quality of its writing and design. The blog aims to support such efforts and to call for magazine editors to focus on quality in ways that go beyond presidential updates.

The blog recently published a credo: "1. The only people required to read our magazines are our life partners, and half of them duck out on us. For everyone else, reading a university magazine is voluntary. 2. If your magazine is not being read, then every dollar that your school pours into it might as well be poured down a storm drain. 3. What do people read? People read stories. Engaging, compelling, deeply reported, well-crafted stories. True stories. 4. Ergo, if you want people to read your magazine, and thus not waste your school’s money, you need to tell great true stories, real stories that have narrative drive and vivid actors and meaningful knowledge, all conveyed with a storyteller’s verve."

At the same time, the blog post acknowledged how unpopular that view may be with some in higher education. "There will never be a shortage of senior administrators, deans, development communications VPs, alumni association directors, and public affairs professionals steadfast in their belief that the graduates of your academy will shove aside The New Yorker, the sports page, the laptop, and the remote in order to read the status of the latest capital campaign, news from the Muskegon alumni chapter, six superficial profiles of earnest undergraduates who are passionate about giving back to the community, and The Dean’s Message," the post says. "But the truth is, almost nobody reads that stuff. It’s boring, it insults our readers’ intelligence, and it can’t possibly compete with a new episode of Lost."

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