How many of you are old enough to remember The New Yorker of 30 or 35 years ago, when it frequently published Talk of the Town pieces that began, “A friend writes . . .”? Well, here is a mystery guest post that could begin that very way:
Here’s something that every college and university magazine editor knows, but we never talk about it, because there’s no polite way to talk about it, so let’s try to talk gently around it, as it were.
It’s in class notes, the pages devoted to the activities of our alumni. In class notes there are lots of photographs of weddings. At every wedding reception there are photographs of happy lineups of raucous alumni, often crowded together and reveling and slightly disheveled from the energy and joy of the reception. And in many of these particular photographs there are women in low-cut dresses, and some of those women in some of those dresses are not quite as covered by the dresses as they would perhaps like to be.
This is what I am talking about.
Often the alumni who were just married send only one photograph, because the reception was chaotic and funny and organizing a pile of alumni for the university magazine was not high on the old priority list, so the editor of the magazine is confronted with a moral dilemma: Do you run the photograph as is, and hope no one notices? Or do you not run the photograph, and offer the newly wedded alumni the usual lies about space and resolution issues? Or do you beg your nose-studded surly tech intern to Photoshop just a touch more dress where a touch more dress would do a world of good? Or do you crop the photograph in such a way that the problem is solved and if anyone complains you as usual blame the poor printer? Or do you courteously ask the newly wedded couple for something a little less orthodox photographically, something unusual from their honeymoon in Belize, perhaps?
I don’t think we talk about the things we should talk about enough, and this is one of them. Perhaps in the world to come there will be sessions devoted to problems like this at the Editors Forum, but I suspect that will not happen in this century, so I think it’s good that we got it out on the table, so to speak, for all to see.
A Fellow Editor