Winter 2010: Prelude
Some Notes on Newt (Yours, and Ours)
By Paige P. Parvin 96G
During the course of nearly a decade at Emory Magazine, associate editor Mary Loftus and I have seen a wide-ranging assortment of items arrive in the mail. There has been a variety of letters to the editor—some typed on embossed letterhead and some dashed off in near-illegible scrawl, some pages long and some just a sentence or two, some kind and some curt, some rambling and some pointed—which I am happy to report have been increasing in number during recent years. We also have received a small library’s worth of books by Emory faculty and alumni, and countless press releases detailing alumni accomplishments, and a few unsolicited essays, and some CDs and lots of photos and even a computer disk or two.
But never, until recently, had I opened an envelope to find the cover of the latest issue of Emory Magazine torn into small pieces and sent back to us.
So what are the odds that this would happen twice within the same month? Yet it did, in November, after the appearance of our autumn issue featuring Emory graduate Newt Gingrich 65C on the magazine cover.
We knew that some alumni would be unhappy with our decision to spotlight Gingrich. However, given his long record of public service, his prominence in mainstream media of all kinds, his continued national influence in the area of health care in particular, and speculation about a presidential run in 2012, we felt it was time to note one of the University’s most high-profile graduates.
As you will see from our letters page, some readers were angered by Gingrich’s presence in the magazine; others were pleased; and some merely complimented our effort to reflect the multiplicity of our alumni. What surprised us, though, were those who felt that even to acknowledge Newt in Emory Magazine represented a serious error in editorial judgment.
As a major research university with a diverse faculty, a vibrant health sciences center, and connections with institutions throughout Atlanta and the world, Emory encompasses a community whose members hold a stunning breadth of views and positions on any given issue. Emory Magazine plays only a minor role in this sweeping production, but it is our job to try to reflect that variety, telling as many of Emory’s stories as possible in 256 pages a year. Certainly we strive to put forth the best the University has to offer, but it is not for us to favor a social position or to judge what is newsworthy based on a political view.
Despite our best efforts to cover our beat without bias, in our recent readership survey, a handful of respondents suggested that the magazine “leans left” and devotes too much space to “proving diversity.” I hope that our feature on Gingrich might have reassured those readers regarding any such political leanings. But if diversity includes differences in not only race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, but also economic status, academic interest, career and volunteer choices, religious affiliation, and political position, then it should be reflected in these pages. Highlighting diversity is part of our charge, just as cultivating diversity is part of the University’s vision.
Gingrich is undoubtedly a controversial figure, but then Emory does not shy away from controversy on principle—as evidenced by ties to institutions like The Carter Center and former President and Nobel Prize–winner Jimmy Carter, who has frequently appeared in Emory Magazine, or the University’s affiliation with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, a Presidential Distinguished Professor who will continue his visits to Emory this fall, and Distinguished Writer-in-Residence Salman Rushdie, both of whom are featured in this issue. As an Emory publication, we strive to do what the University itself does—promote respectful, meaningful, and lively conversation of all kinds and across the spectrum.
On behalf of my colleagues, I extend our sincere thanks to those of you who participated in our electronic readership survey last fall. Your responses will help shape Emory Magazine as we move ahead to future issues—to another high-achieving graduate, another research breakthrough, another influential book, another social issue or cultural trend that might be illuminated by an Emory-based perspective.
In this issue, we look at how “born-digital” material and the proliferation of electronic information are changing research, promising to help create a new breed of scholar. With the opening of Salman Rushdie’s “hybrid” archive, Emory can claim a spot on the cutting edge.
Film studies lecturer Eddy Mueller 07PhD also takes a lighthearted look at the reality TV trend, a cable-born craze that is attracting the attention of academics as well as everyone else in America and beyond. As New York Times writer Bill Carter recently put it, “If you are not on a reality show, or do not wish to be on one, or do not know someone who is on one or trying to be on one, do you exist?” (I certainly hope so.)
And April Bogle of Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion offers an update on the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, a groundbreaking joint effort to teach Tibetan monks and nuns modern science and to learn more about Buddhism by applying contemporary research methods to its ages-old practice. Those familiar with the program long ago stopped marveling at the sight of a Buddhist monk in traditional robes talking on a cell phone or clicking away on a laptop.
During the course of a year, our hope is that just about everyone can find something of interest or meaning.
We may not be able to reach all 116,000 of you. But we mean to try.