Every so often, we conduct a formal survey of Knox Magazine readers that allows us to compare ourselves to peer institutions. Our most recent survey was conducted this winter, roughly five years after we launched a redesign of the magazine. We were gratified to see that readers have responded positively to the new Knox Magazine-ratings for our content selection, photography, and writing improved, and readers noted that they were more willing to engage with Knox after reading the magazine than before. But there is one question that didn't see as much improvement as we had hoped: To what degree do you consider Knox Magazine to be a credible source of information about the institution?
Five years ago, 30 percent of readers said the magazine portrayed the institution accurately and objectively; 45 percent said it contained some spin; and 13 percent said it portrayed Knox only in a positive light. These results are what you'd expect from a magazine whose mission is to build pride among its alumni body, but we did make some conscious decisions in the redesign to provide more ways to cover potentially controversial campus issues, events, or speakers.
We added the "Fired Up/Smouldering/Burned Out" section as a way to highlight potentially controversial or negative campus news. Topics touched upon in this section have included changes to the curriculum's diversity requirement, student concerns over the transition to Bon Appétit, and, in this issue, a discussion of the cancellation of the winter term mainstage theatre production. We've also tried to cover Title IX issues, along with student protests, when they arise; and President Amott frequently touches upon larger issues in the higher education landscape, such as academic freedom, and their impact on campus.
I'm pleased to report that we have made some positive headway: according to our most recent survey results, 35 percent of readers view the magazine as portraying Knox objectively and accurately, and the same percentage of readers say it contains some spin. That's clearly better than five years ago, but 18 percent of readers say that it portrays the institution only in a positive light. That's up five percent from our previous survey, and I'm admittedly a bit disappointed. I wish the changes would have moved the needle in the opposite direction.
With only two magazines a year, it can be difficult to cover all campus issues, but I do believe there are ways we can continue to provide a more complete picture of the Knox experience. For example, this issue's story celebrating the 50th anniversary of A.B.L.E. features nearly a dozen alumni and student voices, which tell a compelling and honest history of one of our most important student organizations and cultural centers.
While we can't cover every campus issue or event in the pages of Knox Magazine—isn't that what social media is for?—we do promise to continue our efforts. We may not always get it quite right, but we are confident you'll let us know when we don't!
Megan Scott '96
P.S. Thanks to the 200+ alumni who took time out of their busy lives to complete the survey. We truly appreciate it.