From the Editor

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Reading the letters and online comments about stories we cover in this magazine is like being absorbed in a fascinating dinner conversation with 130,000 highly educated participants. It is, by far, one of the best parts of our job. But we also get comments about format, department topics, design—standing elements of the publication, in other words. Magazine geeks that we are, they fascinate us too, and sometimes move us to action. Reader input has convinced us to enlarge our margins, our photos, and our type (twice). The trick is in guessing when a letter speaks for a thousand other readers and when it is the lone voice of the outlier.

So, in the spirit of reader service, below I’ve listed several complaints we’ve received in the past few years and what we did about them. Write us. We’d like to know whether any of these issues raises your own hackles.

Sports scores. For decades, we printed the scores of almost every significant varsity competition. They started looking outmoded as the household modem spread, and then, with the triumph of DSL, blatantly useless. We stopped in 2003—and learned that not all alumni who love to read Yale sports scores use the Internet. We compromised: at the end of each season, we print win-loss records in our sports section. (See Sporting Life.)

In the gutter. It is true that we’ve ceased to be a family magazine, and sometimes we hear about it. But this complaint concerns paper and glue, not cuss words. The “gutter” is the division between two facing pages. One patient alumnus has written us three times since 2005 to point out that our gutter swallows a little too much of the inner margin of each page, so that readers have to pull the magazine open slightly to see the whole column. We could compensate by changing the design or the paper size, but we’ve held off because of cost (and because we love our design). Then too, apparently only one reader has noticed. Has anyone else been troubled by our strait-laced binding?

Necrology. This venerable word, used regularly in the nineteenth century for lists of deaths, now appears in very few publications. Our Necrology still runs in every issue, at the end of the Alumni Notes section (which is sent to all college alumni, whose classes buy group subscriptions, and to graduate and professional school alumni who subscribe). We’ve let it stand mostly because it is an heirloom. But necrology is so archaic that it’s starting to acquire unpleasant connotations. One reader called it “a chillingly scientific title for a list of people who meant so much to their families, friends, and classmates.” We haven’t replaced it yet. But it’s not long for this world.

Our name. We haven’t always been a Magazine—we were a Weekly start-up in 1891, and for a period a Magazine & Journal—but we have always been for the Yale Alumni. In recent years a few readers have argued that although Romans would have used alumni if they ever referred to coed groups, the word is too exclusively masculine for Yalies today. But while I agree that he and mankind in English obscure the female rather than representing it, I don’t think dead languages carry as much gender force. And I can’t imagine changing our 119-year-old title to something as clumsy as Yale Alumni/ae Magazine.

Alumni Notes. Too short, limited to the college, barely searchable online, and not online at all at the moment because of a server problem! Mea culpa: every one of these complaints is accurate. And so we are building a radically new Alumni Notes section for our website that will do all the things we can’t do in print. Stay tuned. We expect to see some fascinating dinner conversation.  

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