Since we started up this blog business, I’ve received plenty of magazines that I had never heard of, sometimes from schools I didn’t know were out there. Now I’ve gotten hold of a magazine from a category that I did not know about: the Greeks.
I don’t mean alumni magazines from The University of Sparta and their archrivals, Athens State (“the Philosophers”). I mean periodicals published by the national offices of fraternities and sororities. The magazine that brought this to my attention is Anchora, published by Delta Gamma, which refers to itself as a fraternity even though it’s for women . . . I may have missed a nomenclature change somewhere along the line.
I sent a “what’s this?” note to editor Whitney Parker Scully, who graciously responded to some questions. Turns out her magazine has been published continuously since 1884, though not, I take it, with her as editor that whole time. It’s a quarterly with one of those variable circulations that I’m starting to encounter at other magazines: three issues a year go to 100,000 readers and the fourth goes to 140,000; another 7,000 have opted for electronic editions only.
Scully said she has dozens of colleagues editing “Greek publications”: “The job of a Greek editor is strikingly similar to that of a college/university publication editor. We seek to engage, educate, entertain, and enlighten an audience that has an age range of 18-88+. We strive to help each reader foster and/or maintain her connection to an experience many associate only with college, but one that really does last a lifetime. I’m not delusional enough to think everyone who receives our magazine is enthralled. I like to hope a decent number of them crack the cover, flip through and maybe read a thing or two. I hope they see a photo of a friend, recall a fond memory, think about something in a new way, marvel at the impressive accomplishments of their sisters and maybe think, ‘Hmmph. Who knew? I guess Delta Gamma is still relevant in my life!’ My goal is to ensure our magazine is not an internal newsletter for our most active members. (That sort of narrow-minded focus can and should signal the demise of an organization.) Each issue should be able to engage the most disconnected member, her neighbor, and maybe even her teenage daughter.”
Anchora‘s winter issue has content familiar to all of us: a president’s message, a feature well, a news section, a books page, and news updates from various campus chapters of Delta Gamma. Scully puts out the magazine with a half-time assistant. “The hardest part about each issue is that I function as chief brainstormer, editor, writer, and designer. And I purchased all those hats on our nonprofit budget. It doesn’t feel like putting a puzzle together; it sometimes feels more like creating all the puzzle pieces and then assembling them to the best of your ability and hoping like heck it resembles a puzzle when you’re done.”
As you might expect, Anchora employs the word “sister” more than a typical university magazine, and includes more than a few photographs of cute, smiling Delta Gamma sisters. (I counted more than 70—photos, not sisters). Many of the young women pictured are making the same gesture with one arm, as if they’re waitresses balancing invisible dessert trays. I asked Scully if this was the Delta Gamma gang sign. She wrote, “Good God, ‘gang sign’ is right. That damn salute or whatever is practically the bane of my existence. In theory, when a person does it ‘properly,’ the lasting visual is that of our two Greek letters. Every time I feel I’ve raised the IQ of our modest publication, a sister smacks me in the face with the damn salute.”