Ritzy Harvard alumni magazine folds; Yale spin-off likely scrapped

Many Yalies are familiar with the depictions of the lives of the rich and famous on the show “Beverly Hills 90210,” but few realize that a new alumni magazine almost brought this celebrity-loving mindset to their own ZIP code.

Friday, “02138,” a publication about high-profile Harvard University alumni, became the latest in a long list of magazines to fold during the recent economic downturn. The publisher of 02138, Manhattan Media, had hoped to start a similar magazine at Yale, but the idea has now been suspended indefinitely — a turn of events which comes as no surprise to the editor of Yale’s already-existing alumni magazine.

“I was skeptical it would be started and skeptical it would get off the ground if they tried,” Yale Alumni Magazine Editor Kathrin Lassila ’81 said. “The overall scene for magazines today is pretty dicey. It isn’t a great time to start something new.”

It was hard to get a new magazine off the ground even before the economic crisis, Lassila said. Now, thanks to the downturn, so many publications are folding each week that an anonymous blogger has started a Web site called magazinedeathpool.com to predict who will be next.

Pop culture magazine Radar folded along with 02138 Friday morning, for example. Other publications eliminated in the past month include climbing magazine The Alpinist, Hearst Corporation teen publication CosmoGirl, Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion and housekeeping magazine Jewish Living.

Lassila added that a start-up magazine might have had difficulty competing with the already-established Yale Alumni Magazine, which in addition to providing similar content also has access to Yale’s alumni mailing list, which it pays for.

Not only would a Yale version of 02138 arguably have been redundant, it might also have been offensive to some Yale graduates. Six out of the seven current Yale students interviewed for this article said they disliked the magazine’s premise of focusing on wealthy alumni or those who are frequently featured in the media.

“Yale is so much more than that,” said Julia Lurie ‘11, adding that the magazine seems to play into the stereotype of Ivy League elitism that Yale and its peer schools have been working to overcome.

Sam Raredon ’11 said that he would be more interested in reading about people who are using their Yale educations to pursue the arts, sciences and academia than about those whose accomplishments would have been featured in the new magazine.

But Rahim Sayani ‘12 said the magazine could be a good way for alumni to keep in touch after graduation and that having two magazines fill this role was not a problem.

02138 was started in 2006 and bought by Manhattan Media this spring. According to a May 2008 article in the New York Times, Manhattan Media had intended 02138 to be the first of eight similar magazines — one for each Ivy League school.

Its staff is currently putting the finishing touches on their last issue, which will not go to print but will be posted on the magazine’s Web site.

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