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From the editor overline

What's the Frequency?

THERE ARE A COUPLE OF THINGS different about this issue of the Gazette. First, it's coming to you more than a month sooner -- early-September instead of mid-October -- than it would have in the past. Second, at 88 pages versus 64, it's considerably larger than last year's issues. The reason for this is that the Publications Committee of the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Society voted last spring to change the magazine's frequency to bimonthly. That means you'll be getting six bigger issues spaced evenly through the calendar year rather than eight smaller ones clustered during the academic year. It may also put an end to the phone calls and letters we receive every so often from alumni wondering whatever became of their "summer issues."
    I proposed the change to the committee, so I may be prejudiced, but I think our new format will serve readers better. (One immediate bonus is that this issue is coming out early enough to include the Homecoming 1998 Guide that follows page 68.) I know that the staff will benefit from the more even pacing of issues a bimonthly schedule affords - -although, as the summer has flown by, we've lamented more than once the sacrifice of our former June-October hiatus.
    Out of curiosity, I recently did a quick check of the Gazette's frequency of publication over its near-century of existence. The magazine was a weekly when it was established in 1902 - -as Old Penn; the title was changed to The Pennsylvania Gazette on February 1, 1918. By 1929, it came out every two weeks, and by 1939 was being published 10 times a year. With various shiftings of the months, that remained the case until October 1971, when the switch to eight issues occurred. However, issues in those days ran 48 pages, so we're actually putting out more pages now.
    Rather than length or frequency, what's most important about a magazine, of course, is the value of its contents to readers. We'll be providing much the same mix as before, just more of everything -- including expanded coverage of the University community in "Gazetteer" and of alumni news in "Profiles" and "Notes." Our five feature articles in this issue range from Assistant Editor Susan Lonkevich's cover story on the wrenching end-of-life decisions facing families and society in our age of high-tech health care to a report on a unique electronic forum that, starting last January, brought together members of Penn's Class of 2002 with faculty and alumni. The result was a series of spirited e-mail exchanges on literature, politics, religion, and the meaning of life -- not to mention appropriate dormroom furniture and that key freshman rite of passage, course selection.
    We'll also be introducing some additional elements into the magazine. Debuting in this issue, for example, is a new occasional column, "Alumni Voices," in which alumni will talk directly about their relationship with the University, past, present, and future. In the first installment, an alumna's 25th reunion prompts her to reflect on the significance of Penn over three generations of her family. (We're actively seeking submissions for this column; the response will determine how often it appears in the magazine. Subject matter is wide open, but should have some connection to Penn. The length is up to 1,000 words.)
    Finally, also debuting with this issue is our new art director, Cathy Orr-Gontarek, who came to us from neighboring Drexel University, where she redesigned the alumni magazine and worked on a variety of other projects, including the school's Web site. Earlier, she had worked at St. Joseph's University and here at Penn in the publications office -- so she knows her way around a college campus. Cathy was hired with scandalously little time to design this first issue in our bimonthly format, but she has weathered the challenge with skill, patience, and good humor. We're glad to have her with us.

-- John Prendergast, C'80

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