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Cornell Alumni Magazine appoints Jenny Barnett as 11th editor/publisher

Jenny Barnett

Jenny Barnett, a lecturer in Cornell's Department of Communication and a magazine publishing veteran, will be Cornell Alumni Magazine's next editor and publisher. Photo: provided.

Cornell Alumni Magazine (not to be confused with Ezra magazine) has been in print since 1901. This past summer, its longtime publisher and editor Jim Roberts '71 announced his plan to retire, and this month his successor was announced: Jenny Barnett, a native of England and a University of Oxford graduate with an impressive career in executive editing posts with women's magazines in London and New York City. Since 2010, Barnett has been a lecturer in Cornell's Department of Communication.

Ezra Update caught up with Barnett and asked her about the new job, which she'll start in December.

Q. What are you most excited about doing at the magazine?

A. I'm really excited about the breadth of stories I'm going to be able to get involved in. I worked for women's and fashion magazines, and so this is a new direction. The subject matter of the Cornell Alumni Magazine is as broad as the university and all its alumni. It's also exciting to be coming on board during the sesquicentennial, and as the new university president joins us.

Q. How will you change the magazine? Do you have any big plans?

A. I don't want to talk specifically at this point, although I do have my own ideas of what I'd like to do. Everyone's doing a great job, and it's really a case of building on what's already there. Primarily, I see [the magazine] as a way to engage and entertain alumni. And help them communicate and keep in touch with the university and with each other. The kinds of stories we can tell are what alumni are doing now -- recent alums and those who have been out for longer. And potentially connect them with each other as well. There's obviously a huge nostalgia component, but also a big curiosity about what students are doing now, and faculty. I also want to look at some of the bigger issues that we're all facing -- in higher education in general, as well as the world -- and show how Cornell is contributing to those conversations. There are so many different types of stories to tell. I want to include some more lighthearted content, too. I was talking to alumni at Homecoming and they asked me, "What has happened to Collegetown and all the bars?" All of those things have a place in the magazine.

Q. Tell us a bit about your career up until now.

A. I started my career in London. I was really lucky -- in the right place at the right time. I was part of the launch team of Marie Claire in the U.K. Women's magazines didn't deal with real issues then, but we did, with an emphasis on foreign affairs. Initially people were skeptical, but we were able to prove them wrong, and it became a runaway success. Then I came to the U.S. to work on U.S. Marie Claire. Then to Harper's Bazaar. Coming to Ithaca was a leap of faith. We were in New York City with two big jobs and three kids, and trying to juggle all of those was a little too tricky. It was important to us to be able to put our own children to bed more often than someone else did. I planned to consult and freelance, and hoped to teach, since I'd done some in New York City. My husband, who was a video editor, also wanted to retrain. He's now an elementary [school] teacher in Cayuga Heights, and I get to do what I love -- teaching and making a magazine. It's kind of a nice story.

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