From the Editor

My non-resignation letter

About our new publishing arrangement with Yale.

On June 1 Yale University and Yale Alumni Publications, Inc.—the nonprofit that publishes this magazine—released a joint statement announcing that much is changing at the Yale Alumni Magazine. As of July 1, we will be a department of Yale. This is the last issue published by Yale Alumni Publications.

The reactions among those alumni who saw the announcement were mixed. But one in particular made me realize that our readers needed more information: in a comment on our website, Eric Weinberger ’89 worried that the magazine would become an “administration mouthpiece” and added, “I don’t know why the editor hasn’t resigned.” Two reasons:

First, resignation would be an appropriate move, maybe the only move, in response to a hostile takeover. But in our situation, Yale’s action is much more like a rescue. Our business model has been slowly but steadily failing. Our budget depended for decades on the Yale College class treasuries: each individual class covered the subscriptions for all of its members. Who funded the class treasuries? The fraction of alumni who paid their class dues. The system worked, and everyone was happy, as long as that dues-paying fraction was big enough to fund both the magazine and class activities. And so it was, until recently.

Today, the class dues system is dying off in colleges around the country, including Yale. In the Yale College classes of 1971 through 2013, an average of only 17 percent pay dues. Treasuries are strained. As for the magazine, we have increasingly been subsidizing the classes’ subscriptions. We have watched our revenue from subscriptions moving downward, step by step. We cut back, we increased our fund-raising, we investigated other subscription and publishing models—but it became apparent that we were heading toward financial failure.

Second: Yale has committed to maintaining the magazine as a publication of high-quality journalism, not a mouthpiece. Yes, the Yale administration will unquestionably have more input than before. But Yale has pledged, in the formal agreement with our board, to support “robust journalistic coverage of the university” and to “accord a great deal of editorial discretion” to the magazine. To preserve the magazine’s individual voice and point of view, it will not become part of the communications or development departments. Moreover, our board, including three prominent American journalists, will remain in place, and it is charged to “explicitly give counsel about whether the Yale Alumni Magazine is delivering sophisticated journalism through rigorous reporting.”

And so I believe it is better for me to give this new model my best shot. Yale and our board had asked me to remain, and the staff and I appreciate their confidence in our work. Our mission statement retains its directive to “impartially explore the achievements, issues, and problems of the University—of its administration, faculty, and student body—in order to convey a complete, fair, and accurate understanding of Yale today.” And that is what we plan to keep doing.

We rely on our readers to keep an eye on us: to let us know whether we’ve lived up to your expectations. Beginning with the next issue, we will no longer be published by an independent nonprofit. But the staff and I will still be guided by our constant question: are we delivering to the alumni what they need and want to know? I’ve said publicly many times that we work for you. It’s still true.

1 comment

  • Leslie Reese
    Leslie Reese, 1:24am July 26 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    I'm surprised that class dues participation is so low. Assuming it has not always been so, has anyone looked into why it has declined so severely? I'll bet your readers would find it interesting to know the reasons behind the need to be rescued.

The comment period has expired.