University of Cincinnati Magazine is the official magazine of the university, published by University Relations twice a year and mailed free of charge to approximately 80,000 people (as of early 2014). It is considered a “university magazine,” not an “alumni magazine,” which carries a fine distinction, primarily that its principal focus is on the entire institution and not individual alumni.
Through excellent writing, design and photography, University of Cincinnati Magazine is dedicated to presenting accurate and balanced stories that will both intrigue and impress readers with the stature of the university, including its programs, alumni, faculty, administrators and students. Not only is creative talent necessary to meet that objective, but high-quality paper and printing, as well.
We want to convey messages that meet the dual goal of being something the university wants to communicate and something our audience wants to read. The latter half of that equation is as important as the first because we can’t make people read.
In preparing magazine stories, we have to keep in mind that “UC Magazine” is in direct competition with consumer magazines. In fact, UC Magazine is at a disadvantage because few readers subscribe to it, and the Consumer Research Institute in New York says 44 percent of unsolicited mail is thrown away unopened. Consequently, when people find “UC Magazine” in their mailboxes, something had better lead them to open the cover just as much as something leads them to open their Time magazine or Sports Illustrated.
The final decision on content is always based upon affirmative answers to two questions:
- Is it interesting?
- Will readers be impressed with the university? The point is: If the magazine doesn’t intrigue recipients, they will never read it, and if it doesn’t leave them impressed with the university, it served no purpose.
Leaving a reader impressed with UC can be done in many ways. Reading about the UC alumnus who invented the Pentium chip, for example, should leave a reader impressed with the caliber of alumni UC produces. But an alumnus who successfully launched a second career using a degree from another university would not have the same effect.
Realizing how little it takes for people to stop reading, we keep copy tight. “Less is more,” we insist.
Editorial integrity is also crucial. Because many people automatically distrust any public-relations periodical, we need to present balanced copy in an effort to establish credibility. The value in this is obvious; if the university has a statement to make in the face of controversy, we need readers to believe what the magazine prints. That trust has to be developed over years and involves a fine line in presenting content that is both objective and reflects positively on the university.
On one hand, we will not use the superlatives and hyperbole that has been known to sometimes characterize public-relations copy. On the other hand, we do select topics that present the university in the best light. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore controversial subjects involving the university when sufficient mass-media coverage will have made many readers aware of the situation.
To maintain editorial credibility, we never directly ask for money, and obvious promotion of giving opportunities never occurs outside of the Foundation/Alumni section or the inside back cover ad. In the rest of the magazine, content is intended to engender the type of pride in UC that increases the likelihood of a positive response when a university contribution is solicited by others.
The magazine also adheres its mission statement and to the Principles of Practice for University and College Periodicals Editors, as adopted by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
The magazine is published by University Relations. The staff consists of an editor and associate editor/Web editor. Design is contracted through UC Creative Services, which has assigned a single designer to the project. Photographers are hired through two sources: 1) UC Photographic Services and 2) Communications Services Photography at the Academic Health Center. Additional writing comes from the Academic Health Center public relations staff. All copy is edited. The magazine editor has final authority over the editorial content, words and pictures that appear in the publication. The editor reports to the UC vice president of Governmental Relations and University Communications, who reviews the final magazine before it leaves for the printer.
When writing for one’s audience, it is necessary to know who they are.
The magazine is distributed to all donors (about 85 percent of whom are alumni), all full-time faculty and staff, prospective donors as identified by the Foundation, new graduates who attendede commencement during 2008-14, members of the UC Parents Association who paid for a subscription, local media, community leaders and various VIPs, including presidents of the 400 largest universities in the U.S., who vote for U.S. News & World Report rankings. Special orders, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand issues, increase circulation and are paid for by individual university units as requested. Subscriptions are also available.
Of our total circulation, 72 percent are alumni, although that only constitutes approximately 25 percent of the 260,000 total living alumni (as of Aug. ’13). We identify our readers as a diverse, well-educated, general-interest audience. Consider, for example: Some have two-year degrees from Clermont College and have never been to the main campus. Some have lived on campus and been part of extracurricular activities. Others received a PhD, MD or JD here and owe their primary allegiance to their undergraduate schools. Still others receive a paycheck from UC and feel underappreciated.
Primarily, the audience is an undergraduate one. Roughly half of them live in the Greater Cincinnati area and half live elsewhere, even abroad. Men and women are divided rather evenly. Although all ages are included, the heaviest abundance of readers graduated in the 1970s and the lowest in the 1990s, according to data that has remained stable from 2000-13.
Keep in mind that our on-campus audience has one major disadvantage, what we call the “silo mentality.” That means they tend to believe their colleges and units are autonomous from the larger institution, leading them to care little about what happens elsewhere in the university.
Statistics indicate that on campuses everywhere, instructors and staff are usually a school’s harshest critics, assuming that only their departments are valuable. Yet a study conducted by LPK in 2001 showed that internal campus attitudes at UC are even worse than national averages.
Therefore, UC Magazine “connects the dots” between disparate university communication and enables UC to communicate globally as a single institution.
All print-magazine content is published online with content going live the day the print magazines are due to arrive in campus mailboxes. Online magazine production starts before the print issue leaves for the printer and requires about four weeks to complete. When online content can be written to provide additional value to print material, an icon is placed in the print edition to drive readers to the Web. The Web version of the magazine includes breaking news, Web exclusives and multimedia content that is updated at least weekly.
The print magazine is mailed through the main Cincinnati branch of the U.S. Post Office at the standard, nonprofit rate, presorted according to enhanced carrier routes. That rate carries certain limitations in editorial content and label generation and formatting. The data for our mailing lists must be CASS-certified twice a year.
Paid advertising is not accepted in print or online, ensuring our editorial independence. Although the outside and inside back covers of the print edition feature university-related editorial content formatted to look like an ad, we provide this space free of charge and refrain from publicizing blatant advertising content there, such as the cost of purchasing merchandise. Due to postal regulations, the copy can never promote any university-related credit cards, travel programs, insurance programs or bank offers under any circumstances.
Low-cost subscriptions to the print magazine are available to the magazine for people who wish to receive it without donating to the University or joining the Parents Assocation. This is particularly helpful for parents of students. Subscriptions forms are available online, where readers also can register to receive notice of new online content.
The magazine editors shall make every attempt to ensure that all facts and statements are true, that content is free of plagiarism and that the material does not infringe upon any copyright or proprietary right. The magazine will promptly acknowledge and correct factual errors. Presenting accurate and balanced stories is in the first line of our operating principals, so this aspect is not taken lightly.
Because the magazine does not employ a fact-checker, writers must carefully verify all facts and spelling of names. Editors will only double-check details that strike them as odd.
After final editing has taken place, the editor will give writers an opportunity to see copy to ensure no errors occurred during the editing process. If necessary, writers may fact-check articles with sources, although generally writers are told not to give sources entire stories to read. When a writer needs a source to fact-check something, the writer should extract data and quotes related only to that source from the final text document and send it to the source. Final decisions on editing always reside with the editor, which should be explained to the source.
In no instance should a feature story be published about an individual who was never contacted and who is unaware that the magazine is publishing a story.
All steps are taken to avoid any risk of having magazine PDFs circulating before the magazine is published. In the rare instance that a source needs to view a PDF, the PDF should be printed and reviewed with the source in the presence of a writer or editor. PDFs are never e-mailed or left with someone.
Themes for issues are generally planned at least one year in advance. Final copy deadline for an issue is three months in advance, meaning stories are being written four months in advance. External audiences are often given a deadline two weeks prior to that to leave time for editing. Production of the print magazine requires six weeks. Printing and mail delivery require three weeks under the current printing contract. Postal delivery cannot be confirmed under our nonprofit standard rate. Printing is awarded to the lowest bidder, on a one-year basis, renewable for a second year.
Editorial content, photos and design must reflect both UC’s branding initiative and the academic master plan. Extensive documentation on the ways content reflects the latter will be maintained for each issue, yet magazine references to the plan will be subtle and rarely mention it by name to maintain our credibility among readers.
To effectively create intriguing images with broad appeal, the magazine is published in theme issues. A panoramic lens makes it easier to incorporate a wide variety of sources into individual stories and issues. After doing this since 1997, we have found the result to be a greater mix of colleges; a greater mix of faculty, students and alumni; and the ability to tie together interesting tidbits that could never turn into stories on their own.
In any one issue, we aim to make content reflect as many colleges as possible, while still leaving room to use concrete, tangible examples. The addition of college names will not be done at the expense of editorial integrity, yet documentation will be maintained regarding the magazine’s effectiveness in displaying diversity.
During any one year, attempts will be made to have one issue primarily reflect programs on campus, one issue primarily focus on alumni and one issue contain an abundance of photos or easily skimmed items. Content in any one issue should reflect a good mixture of faculty and alumni, plus a few students.
Names of faculty members should also be run through the alumni database to determine if they are alumni. If so, that relationship should be made clear. Alumni are identified by abbreviating the name of their colleges and their graduation years after their names. (See “Alumni identification” below.)
Because the magazine is only published two times a year, copy is written to provide a long shelf life. Similarly, calendar items are generally rejected because they decrease the shelf life and because magazine production takes place so far in advance. Surveys have indicated that readers hang on to the magazine for three months or more. Some place them on bookshelves indefinitely.
In keeping with the university's diversity directive, the magazine circulates to a diverse audience (alumni, donors, faculty, staff and key influentials) and reflects significant diversity in its content, including the following:
- Stories and photos in each issue should reflect a variety of colleges, ages, ethnicities and nationalities. In most instances, the editor will itemize such points in assigning stories in an attempt to direct diversity from the outset.
- During the year, magazine content should attempt to address people with handicaps, people from various socio-economic statuses, as well as people with religious and cultural differences.
- Theme issues follow diversity as outlined in "Theme issues" above.
To measure the magazine's success in this area, an annual report will measure diversity of coverage and another report will track the number of colleges mentioned in each issue. The goal is to cover as many of UC's colleges as possible in each issue.
Format, visual elements
In most instances, the 48-page magazine (plus cover) will allocate space according to the following schedule and in the following order:
- Table of contents — 1 page
- Letters — 4-6 pages
- News — 5 pages
- President’s column —1 page
- Feature well — 20-22 pages, depending upon length of letters and sports
- Sports — 2-4 pages
- Centerfold photo spread — 2 pages
- An archival photo — 1 page
- AA & Foundation — 8 pages, including the Alumni Index
- Alumni Index — up to 3/4 of the last page of the AA & Foundation section
In the final page layout, thematic stories run adjacent to each other. Non-thematic content goes before or after the feature-well depending upon where the feature-well falls and the news value of the content.
Generally, pages are laid out using 500 words a page, which leaves room for photos. Specific word counts are available for specific sections. External offices that submit copy are expected to meet this number and pages will be assigned to final stories according to this word count.
In print, photos are the first thing a reader looks at, usually followed by captions, headlines, then copy. For that reason, intriguing photos are critical, and we restrict them to ones that are highly engaging and look candid. Except in rare exceptions, photographs are limited to those taken by professional photographers. The designer’s opinion weighs heavily upon what is accepted.
We never use “grip-and-grin” photos or ones depicting a giant check. Head shots are occasionally used, but cannot be the primary source of art for any story.
Photos must be high resolution (300 DPI for the appropriate layout dimensions). Reprint permission is usually needed to use photos that have been previously published. Additional permission may be needed to use a photo online. Black and white images are only used when deemed usable by the designer.
Photos must depict reality, and those altered in Photoshop in a way that distorts reality must be labeled as a “photo illustration.”
If recognizable people are featured in photos, we need the photographer to obtain names to include in captions. We also need their permission to publish the photo if it was not taken in a public location. If children are featured in a photo, we need not only their names, but written permission from a guardian to publish the photo.
Because captions are usually the first thing read on a page and work to pull readers into a story, this text is important. We expect captions to be more than labels and prefer for them to offer information not contained in the story. People appearing in photos must be identified, and the photographers are expected to furnish IDs and related information.
Covers must feature an extremely strong image and relate to the theme. Preference will be given to photos containing people. We are careful to keep any two covers from having a similarity that would lead readers to wonder whether an issue on the coffee table was old or new.
Cover tag lines amount to only three or four per issue, and one of them must convey the theme.
Headlines must convey the point of the story and intrigue. This is usually accomplished through decks. Writers must submit headlines with their stories, although the editor is likely to revise them, and final page designs often require rewrites.
Bylines are attached to all feature stories because they lend credibility. They may be omitted from briefs or sidebars. When extensive rewriting by an editor is required, the original writer and editor will share a byline or the original writer will be given an exclusive byline that reads, "reported by xxxx." The policy has nothing to do with comparing the quantity of time two people invest in a piece, but is intended to indicate that another party contributed significantly to the story.
Guidelines for specific sections
This section is vital for impressing readers with the university and is valuable because it is the second most highly read department in the magazine. To keep readers engaged, we carefully balance human-interest news items and campus-life stories with academic achievements and research breakthroughs. We use several different writers to achieve a variety of voices and viewpoints.
We also write lively copy with a light touch, bordering on humor when appropriate. Consider this example: “Cleaning overrated? — Door-to-door vacuum sales be damned. Environmental health scientists at UC swept aside a key sales pitch for sweeper peddlers when they found that infants may actually benefit from that deep down dust in the carpet. …”
Specific news guidelines follow:
- Each page needs at least one engaging photo. Writers must supply the caption.
- A good mix of copy must reflect as many colleges as possible, plus a variety of alumni, faculty and student subjects.
- News must be of a national or international caliber. State achievements are rarely used.
- Grants or gifts are only mentioned when they exceed $1 million.
- No item is repeated in the news when it is featured elsewhere in the magazine.
- Copy must be written as tightly as possible, not exceeding 450-500 words per page. Consequently, many details are omitted from copy. For example, we rarely name all the researchers working on a project because the audience is interested in the research itself, but names generally mean little to them. Similarly, we do not use long official titles of offices or faculty titles if a shorter generic term conveys the same message. It’s all about keeping people reading.
- “Medical Breakthroughs” and “UC Makes the News” are standard columns when content is available.
- We do not introduce new employees or appointees in the news section, with the exception of new deans, UC Board of Trustee members or a university president.
Because few things on campus cross all collegiate and silo boundaries like sports, it has a role to play in the magazine. Writing copy four months in advance, of course, limits timely sports coverage, so magazine content looks for new angles. One question we frequently ask ourselves is, “How many alumni across the country already know about this?” If the answer is “most of them,” it’s old news.
This is the most highly read department in the magazine. Letters must meet certain requirements. When they do, we try to print at least a portion of all letters received, including controversial ones, which are necessary to maintain magazine credibility. Editorial replies are written to answer questions and clarify misinformation, but are not crafted in simple defense of an article.
Letter requirements follow:
- The letter must relate to the University of Cincinnati.
- A letter cannot contain potentially libelous statements or personal attacks.
- Letters must be signed and identified by graduation year, city of residence, professional affiliation or other means of contact.
The editor reserves the right to edit letters for length or clarity and to reject letters of unsuitable content.
The last page of the magazine consists of a one-page archival photo and extensive caption that reflects the theme in some way. If possible, the caption should contain a teaser that drives readers back into the magazine to see a related story, thus increasing depth of readership.
Pages are provided to the Foundation and Alumni Association for news that is appropriate to both their offices, that fits the UC Magazine mission statement and that adheres to editorial guidelines. The Alumni Index is located on the last page of the section and may occupy as much as 3/4 of the page. (See the "class notes" section for more details.)
As discussed under "Operating Principles": "To maintain editorial credibility, we never directly ask for money, and obvious promotion of giving opportunities never occurs outside of the Foundation section or the inside back cover ad.
Class notes were removed from “UC Magazine” in 1998 due to lack of reader interest. The Alumni Association and the college development offices accept class notes for publication in college periodicals and online.
In lieu of class notes, UC Magazine lists all alumni mentioned in an issue as part of an alumni index found in the development section. Alumni are listed with their graduation years, in numerical order, then cross-referenced with the pages on which their names appear. This allows people to search for and read about classmates, while increasing depth of readership. (Since 2007, indexes have included between 89 and 186 names in each issue.)
Obituaries are not included in the print magazine. The online magazine accepts obituaries of prominent alumni, donors and faculty. The average obituary is only a couple of sentences in one paragraph. Survivors and arrangements are not listed.
Book reviews are not included in the print magazine. The online magazine accepts books written by faculty, staff and alumni for review. Authors must submit the online form to be included.
UC Magazine follows the UC Stylebook, which defaults to the Associated Press Stylebook. If those stylebooks fail to address a spelling issue or a style question, the magazine relies on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
The magazine follows the UC Stylebook in the treatment of all names, but also sets two additional standards in the use of personal names:
- First and last names are written uppercase as a standard proper noun, even if the individual prefers lowercase (e.g., E.E. Cummings, not ee cummings). The reason is that missing capital letters looks like a mistake.
- Delete middle initials in personal names unless the person uses the initial as part of a commonly spoken name (e.g., Timothy Smith, not Timothy J. Smith — or T.J. Smith).
Similarly, delete middle initials of building names to maintain consistency with personal names.
In addition, the first time an alumna is mentioned, include her maiden name if she does not currently use that name and it is the name she used when she attended UC. Maiden names should be listed between fist and last names. (Terry Watts Beckman). Nicknames can be put in quotation marks, if the formal name also appears (Eleanor “Muffin” Reid). Last names are used exclusively on second reference.
Please see UC Stylebook entries for the following:
- company, corporate, product names
- publication titles
- magazine, journal titles
- composition titles
- course names
Faculty and professional titles can sometimes be so lengthy and cumbersome that they risk bogging down a reader. If we can simplify such titles, while retaining accuracy, we do so.
Likewise, we avoid long official titles of offices, centers, divisions and colleges. We shorten names when a generic term conveys the same message, and we eliminate explanations of organizational relationships that do not clarify a message. Tight copy means the difference between maintaining reader engagement and having readers skip a story.
Alumni are identified by abbreviating the name of their colleges and graduation years after their given names. An undergraduate degree would be noted as: Joe Black, CCM ’94, is on the board. Graduate degree examples include: Greta Bach, MS (A&S) ’88; Susan Smith, MM ’79; Jason Powers, JD ’01.
If an alumnus did not graduate, we can list the person as att. CCM, for example, or assign a year based upon the last year attended. We opt for the latter when the person has attained a noticeable stature in the professional field or in society and when the person attended UC for least a few years and considers himself/herself an alum. If the person did not graduate, is not interested in being affiliated with UC, we would only use the "att." abbreviation.
The magazine's choice of abbreviations may not be the preferred abbreviation for each college, but it is the most easily understood by all alumni regardless of what college they attended. The goal is for all readers to readily understand what colleges alumni attended. College abbreviations are as follows:
Identifying degrees as an art or science degree is enormously difficult anymore because most colleges offer so many different degrees. Rather than being specific, magazine writers will generally list the college abbreviation for a bachelor's degree. For a master's degree, the magazine would typically put an M in front of parentheses containing the college abbreviation. Examples: M (A&S), M (CCM), M (DAAP). One exception is an MBA, because those initials are so accepted and understood to mean a business degree.
(Guidelines on how to handle more specific instances are available in the “Degree Abbreviations” PDF below.)