Spectator Makeover--UI alumni newsletter to transition to a new look, a new distribution, and a new name

When Spectator debuted in November of 1967, it announced to alumni and friends that its mission as a periodical was “to reflect the stimulating life, the work, the people of this University with a kind of friendly detachment, without grinding axes for any particular segment of a wide audience.” Articles in that black-and white inaugural issue include:

• A news item describing the newest language to be offered on campus, FORTRAN (a computer programming language derived from “formula translation”), complete with quotes from Gerard P. Weeg, then-director of the University Computer Center.

• An artist’s rendering of the Health Sciences Library, with its triangular roof peaks and vertical clerestories. (Its construction, notes a caption, was estimated to cost a mere $2 million.)

• A report on the auction of bed sheets, dinnerware, and even the kitchen sink that had belonged to Iowa City’s downtown landmark Jefferson Hotel, which had just closed and was being cleared out to make way for university offices.

• A photo of one of the university’s remaining 325 Quonset huts, which rented for $68 a month and therefore were a “cheap and popular” housing option among students.

While Spectator’s mission has remained constant over the last 45 years, so much else has changed. Mass communication has evolved rapidly, and reading habits for the most part have kept pace. Also, postage has steadily increased, along with our distribution (about 236,000!). To remain current and cost-effective, we have pared down to twice-a-year distribution, and have added a monthly online component.

Last year we turned to our readers to find out your reading preferences and to see if Spectator in general was hitting the mark. It turns out you like what we are doing, although a surprising number of you indicated a preference for print; many others, however, acknowledged that online communication has benefits that may outweigh the challenges and costs associated with print.

Our proposal? Let’s meet halfway:

• Starting with our spring 2013 issue (due out in May), we will increase print distribution to three issues a year (about once every four months), and we’ll mail them only to alumni for whom Alumni Records does not have an email address.

• For alumni with email addresses on record, we’ll send a monthly email digest of news and features about the university that is packaged especially for you—similar to the one we’ve been distributing since 2009.

• Alumni who belong in the latter group may opt to receive the print mailing by visiting www.iowalum.com/emailPref and checking the appropriate box.

There’s just one more thing:

Since March 2012, our office has been putting its heart and soul into an online publication called Iowa Now, a one-stop shop for news, multimedia, and features about UI people and programs. It’s a robust platform that allows readers interested in the university to visit one central site (see now.uiowa.edu) and find compelling stories by topics or college.

To make our work more efficient and to boost alumni-related content in Iowa Now, we plan to retire the Spectator name, instead producing both a print and online publication under the Iowa Now banner. Sadly, this will be the last issue of Spectator as you know it.

Next up is Iowa Now–Alumni Edition.

You can expect the same commitment to telling UI stories with a friendly detachment and without axe-grinding. We’ll just have a new name and a revised—depending on your email status—mode of delivery.

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions. You can reach us by phone at 319-384-0045, via email at alumni-edition@uiowa.edu, or by snail mail at Iowa Now–Alumni Edition, University Communication and Marketing, 300 PCO, Suite 370, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

Sara Epstein Moninger
photo by Tom Jorgensen

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© The University of Iowa 2009