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Turning the Page: After more than 120 years, CAM says farewell


Covers of CAM through the ages

Cornell Alumni Magazine has never been a typical alumni publication. Founded in 1899 to—in the words of the debut issue—“reflect faithfully and especially for alumni the present life at the University” and to “keep the alumni informed as fully and as accurately as possible about the whereabouts and doings of Cornell men and women,” it was from the beginning a separate entity from the institution it covers. In a phrase coined by one of its past editors, CAM—or, as it was known for most of its first century, the Cornell Alumni News—sought to chronicle Cornell and Cornellians with “sympathetic objectivity,” offering its readers an unvarnished view of the University they love so well.

Over the decades, CAM won numerous awards including—twice, in 1997 and 1999—the Sibley, the top honor in the field of alumni magazines; in 2017, it won a best cover nod from the American Society of Magazine Editors, a rare alumni publication to be so recognized. CAM profiled thousands of Cornellians, from the world-famous to the merely remarkable. It covered events both joyful and challenging—from myriad Commencements and Reunions to the 1969 takeover of Willard Straight Hall to the 9/11 terrorist attacks that took the lives of some two dozen alumni, each of whom was memorialized in an obituary in our news pages.

But like print publications everywhere, CAM has seen its subscriptions decline in recent decades. The magazine now reaches only about 5 percent of living alumni, and last year, it finally became clear that CAM’s longtime operational model was not sustainable. That’s why the current issue is the last in our traditional form as a predominantly print publication.

When the Alumni News began at the close of the nineteenth century, it was all about the written word: it was densely packed with columns of information and few images. Over the course of more than a century‚ it evolved to become a full-color magazine with a sophisticated, reader-friendly design—one that, we hope, can stand head and shoulders with many newsstand offerings. Now, it’s time for another change: while CAM is concluding, the University is launching a new online alumni communications “hub” with input from an alumni advisory board. It will include not only the kind of vibrant, journalistic coverage you’ve come to expect from CAM, but also multimedia offerings not possible in print. And for those who prefer to read about Cornell on the page, a print version will be made available by subscription.

For myself and all of CAM’s staff—several of whom have been in their posts for more than a quarter-century—it has been an honor to showcase the astonishingly high-achieving alumni, faculty, staff, and students of one of the world’s great universities. We know that Cornellians will continue to do great things—and that their alma mater will continue to celebrate them.

Jenny Barnett
Editor & Publisher


16 thoughts on “Cornelliana

  1. 1955

    I am very sad to see the CAN print version go away, and I am willing to pay to keep it, even if it is a mimeo version. Just as I am sad to see print newspapers, like the Cornell Daily Sun, disappear. Especially-so as my career was with print newspapers and the two I worked longest for now no longer print. I do not want to read my CAN on a computer or a smart phone. (I do not OWN a smart phone, nor do I want one.) I do not read books on a computer.
    – Gordon Eliot White ’55

  2. Parent and retiree

    What an awful decision! This is so shortsighted. Once again the fundraisers fail to understand the role of an informative and credible publication that does not ask for money on every page.

    • 1958

      I also receive the Columbia magazines as a former Board member of their school of public health. They seem to be soldiering on with their print copy. So what are the other Ivy magazines doing and, if print is surviving, how are they doing it?

    • Arts 1976

      Hear hear!! In spite of being retired (and still a young 66), I find myself on my laptop at least 2-3 hours/day reading the local paper, NYTimes, blogs on art and artists, writing to friends, etc. When I want to relax, I still prefer to pick up a ‘real’ (i.e., not virtual/online) book, and do need to abstain from screens two hours before bed, if I wish to conquer insomnia. So the very few items I still get that are print, I cherish and do tend to read/glance at, cover to cover. And CAM’s independence from the development office was also very welcome — it led to very balanced journalism. I will be sad not to be able to enjoy CAM any more…

  3. arts 71

    i always looked forward to receiving the magazine. Unique information and unusual coverage. and of course the class notes and related regular features. sad announcement

    Marc Cohen 71

  4. 1955

    Since I am losing classmates, I dearly hope that their deaths will added to the information that the school sends out! More important is news on classmates that are still kicking and active. The classnotes are extremely important to me.
    Terrible idea, I shall miss it

  5. 68 & 71

    The Alumni Magazine has been too expensive for a long time. Perhaps an electronic version with the class notes could be developed.

  6. BEE '62, MEng(EE) '69

    I always felt it was all PR. I never paid for an issue. I’d pay for a Cornell Engineering magazine if it had the content comparable to Scientific American or the MIT magazine.

  7. BA 1993, MLA/MRP 2000

    Ahh, this is unfortunate. Personally I like having the printed copy in the house. It is actually one of the reasons that I have kept up my class dues – to receive the magazine. It’s a nice physical reminder of life up on the Hill that arrives every month. I agree with the comment above that the items I do get in print I cherish. I also know that my wife still gets her copy of Harvard Magazine every month …

  8. 1951

    Times are changing. I rank this right up up there with Seal and Serpent going 30% women.

  9. 1966

    It’s tragic to see this happening. It says a great deal about the power (or lack of it) of the alumni affiliation. To have the alumni magazine taken over by development office staff means that our voice is now officially gone. The university will try to sell what it can and pretend that what they are doing actually represents real connections to the university. Sadly, we all know that that isn’t the case. Cornell has turned another sad corner. Like others, I’ll read what I’m sent, but I won’t pretend that the magazine represents people like me. I wish it well. Perhaps I’m wrong about all this. I wish that were the case.

  10. 1964

    I love getting the magazine…and I read it from cover to cover though not at one time which is why it’s nice to have an actual magazine. I hope that they can find some way to continue even if it means making it a bit more expensive. I don’t think anyone asked the alumni if this is what was wanted.

  11. 1964

    I’ve read all the alumni comments. A print issue will also be available for those interested in paying a subscription cost. (Best to read the entire message from the CAM folks..)

    • Best to read it carefully, Douglas. The “print version” will be of the new, development communication not the independent alumni magazine that Cornell is abandoning.

  12. A & S 1972

    Unfortunate decision by my estimate. Maybe, editors should reconsider decisions re magazine content, before blaming the “media environment.” Additionally, why not reevaluate the independence of the publication, allowing university financing. It’s not as though the magazine is ever skeptical of university decisions anyway.
    Finally, I’m another old goat, who appreciated the printed word.

  13. 1946

    I’ll acknowledge I’m part of a dying breed. I love to read before turning out the light at night. As a printed version, I could carry it with me and pick it up while waiting to be seen by the doctor. I’m saddened that I can only read about Cornell in front of my computer. I wish we’d been consulted before the decision was made.
    Joyce Manley Forney

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