Let’s start 2013 with a look back at 2012, shall we? It’ll give me a chance to spew bold type throughout this post, like a society columnist. You do remember society columns . . . don’t you? Please tell me somebody out there is as old as I am.
The biggest story of the year was how The Penn Stater handled the Sandusky child sex scandal —with guts, creativity, and excellence, as it turned out. I probably should not be speaking for Tina Hay, but I’d bet good money she would love nothing better than coming to the end of stories necessitated by the continuing impact of that epic mess. The current issue’s cover story? The search for a new president, because the previous president was fired because . . . yeah, you know.
Other story highlights? There were a lot, and I’m hardly going to do justice here to the best work published, but a sampling of notable editorial content:
— The special issue of Virginia that dealt (and dealt quite well) with UVA’s bizarre “we fired the president—OK, no, we take it back” saga.
— A researcher’s fight with a climate science debunker, published by St. Thomas.
— Notre Dame‘s fab style issue.
— It wasn’t a story, but a great cover coup was Occidental‘s convincing the school’s president to pose fully clothed, lying in water, for the magazine’s “swimsuit issue.”
— LSA Magazine‘s food issue. (From the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at Michigan.)
— The special issue of Dartmouth dedicated to Dartmouth alums who are also Iraq/Afghanistan vets.
Redesigns were all the rage: Johns Hopkins Magazine, Bentley Observer, Oberlin, Temple, Virginia Tech, Middlebury, Dickin-son, Carolinian (South Carolina), Momentum (Mississippi State), and American, among others, debuted new looks. Willamette Lawyer got more ambitious, starting down the path of becoming a regional magazine of ideas for the Pacific Northwest legal community.
Best trend of the year? The pressure to forsake print for digital seemed to abate, permanently one hopes but probably not. We heard of fewer editors forced to cut one print issue in favor of an online-only “magazine,” and noted fewer frantic CUE posts from editors required to do a return-on-investment study for their print magazines. A few magazines worked up iPad apps for tablet editions, but there was little indication that readers flocked to them. Readers didn’t even shuffle toward them, from what I’ve heard. There were even . . . can it be? . . . two new print offerings, Glimpse, a new research magazine from Clemson, and Exel, a research annual from Drexel. Second best trend of the year was the increasing beauty of alumni magazines. I’m serious—all that redesign money has been well spent. There are a lot of great-looking magazines out there. And some that remain howlingly bad, but we won’t go into that.
Worst trend of the year? The continuing enlistment of the alumni magazine in the cult of the president. Incoming presidents on the cover, outgoing presidents on the cover, lengthy features on the president’s vision, the president’s plan, the president’s formative experiences . . . I lost count of president cover stories, but I didn’t lose count of interesting president cover stories, because there weren’t any. Second worst trend of the year was magazines that easily could be mistaken for football gameday programs. Don’t get me started again about the absurdities endemic to intercollegiate athletics.
Among the magazines that land in my inbox, I thought the strongest years were enjoyed by Denison, Middlebury, Portland, and The Penn Stater, but that couldn’t be more subjective, and a lot of magazine’s had strong individual issues.
What lies ahead for 2013? Beats me, but I’m looking forward to finding out, one clogged mailbox at a time. If you don’t already send your magazine to UMagazinology, please do so. I can’t read and comment on every one—they still expect me to do a little work for Johns Hopkins from time to time—but I look at every issue that comes in. Send ’em, please.