Time to turn over a new leaf?
Readers offer some thoughts on what they like and what they’d like more of.
The latest survey from the Magazine’s online reader panel yielded both quantitative and qualitative data. First, the numbers: 70 percent of the respondents report “reading or looking into” four out of the last four issues, while 77 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” agree with the statement “I get most of the news about what is happening at my alma mater today from my alumni magazine.” For its final question, the survey offered participants a chance to write “anything you’d like to share with the Magazine or about the University of Chicago.” Being Chicago readers, they did.
The only problem with open-ended comments is that they leave things, well, open-ended. Do the readers who write, “I love the Magazine” cancel out those who find it “mediocre at best”? Because the editors realize that no one has to read the publication—as one respondent noted, “I enjoy the mag, but it has to compete with the Economist, the daily WSJ, the Sunday NYT, Imprimis, and a raft of specialty publications, not to mention books”—we pay close attention to the specific suggestions for improvement.
“Bring back Jessica Abel!” a reader commanded. Cartoonist Abel, AB’91, stopped doing her “Chicagophile” column in February 2005 to make time for other projects, but we’ve let her know that our door is open and our light is on.
“More articles about research” was a repeated request—although a self-described “anomaly” among Chicago alumni confessed, “I don’t particularly enjoy intellectualizing and therefore find some of the articles totally boring.”
What about editorial objectivity? “The Magazine seems to often whitewash the stance of the administration at U of C,” complained one respondent. “Rather than look at both the positive and negatives of decisions the administration has made, the Magazine often acts like a cheerleader.” A second reader offered a parallel comment: “I appreciate the recent willingness to tackle contentious subjects.”
One thing fans and critics alike agreed on: the class notes. “I rarely do more than flip through the updates from my class,” harrumphed one reader. The same point was also made with a somewhat more positive spin: “The first section I always read is the alumni news section to find out about my classmates.”
Then there’s the e-reading trend. “I enjoy receiving the magazine via e-mail,” noted a respondent, while another concurred, “I find that I do most of my reading of the magazine through the Web site.” These readers are probably not alone: visits to our Web site increased 96 percent between 2003 and 2006.
Another kind of commentary
Thanks to the many readers who have responded to our March plea for help in underwriting the annual costs of producing six print and online issues. We appreciate the support—$70,158 by early April; checks to the University of Chicago Magazine or gifts online remain welcome. We’re equally grateful for the news, advice, and other comments that accompany your gifts.
Changing of the class-news guard
With this issue, Alumni News Editor Brooke E. O’Neill, AM’04, leaves the Magazine staff for a new life in Santa Monica, California. We’ll miss Brooke, who also edited the “Arts & Letters” section: her organizational skills, her attention to detail, and her unfailing cheer and courtesy. Meanwhile, we take comfort in the fact that we haven’t lost an alumni news editor; we’ve gained a West Coast freelancer.