An Inside Look

August 16, 2001

Carol J. Schlueter
Phone: (504) 865-5714

Inside Tulane got a good report card from its readers in a survey this spring, along with some strong opinions about their likes and dislikes in the employee publication.

Likes: articles on university policies and issues (92 percent of readers rate this important), and the calendar of events (83 percent ranking).

Dislikes: the idea of a shorter e-mail or online version of Inside (78 percent against). "No more e-mail!" wrote an uptown staff member.

The best news of all was the excellent response to the survey--30.1 percent--with 1,206 persons responding out of 4,006 staff and faculty members polled. While uptown campus employees filled out the majority of surveys (750 total -- 551 staff and 199 faculty), Health Sciences Center employees participated at a higher rate than in previous surveys (425 total, including 305 staff and 120 faculty).

The survey was developed by the publications and university communications offices, with the assistance of The Olinger Group, a New Orleans marketing research and consulting firm, which analyzed the data.

At the top of the list was reader satisfaction. Ninety-four percent of readers said they are satisfied with Inside (37 percent very satisfied, 57 percent somewhat satisfied). The survey showed no significant difference among groups in the satisfaction level (that is staff versus faculty, uptown versus HSC).

Debbie Grant, assistant vice president for university communications, said the survey was a "wonderful exercise" to stay in touch with readers across all campuses, seeing what they like and what they are reading.

"Im proud to see so many people like the publication," Grant said. "The vast majority of responses were positive and it's important for us to know how people feel about it. There are always some things that we can do better and we appreciate the comments and suggestions that some readers provided."

Overwhelmingly, the survey showed that employees like to read about faculty and research, with faculty readers rating that equal to stories about university policies. Staff members are even more interested in university policies. Information about staff ranked high with staff members, as well as the calendar of events, research stories and personnel milestones.

Forty percent of all respondents ranked athletics coverage as important. Readers also ranked Inside on how it performed on those same topic areas. They gave Inside marks of 75 percent approval and higher for its calendar of events, faculty and research stories, personnel milestones and policy stories. Staff members, however, ranked Inside slightly higher in its performance on policy stories (77 percent) than did faculty (69 percent).

Although 70 percent of readers thought Inside did well in providing information about staff, a number of staff members wrote in comments asking for more stories aimed at staff interests. One uptown staff member wrote, "Too much downtown and not enough uptown. Also, focus is always on faculty, hardly ever on staff."

The survey queried readers about whether coverage was balanced between the two campuses. Sixty-three percent said they thought it was balanced (59 percent of HSC readers and 66 percent of uptown readers).

The Inside editorial staff endeavors to balance stories between the two campuses and employee groups, but always welcomes suggestions about stories at Questions about preferences brought interesting responses. Some readers (44 percent) expressed an interest in reading stories about students.

When asked their preference about how often Inside should publish, respondents showed no strong desire to see an increase in its frequency. In fact, 52 percent of respondents thought it should be published monthly (Inside now publishes twice a month during the school year). Written comments on the surveys ranged from pleas for adding movie listings to the calendar, to a suggestion to place "more emphasis on institutional achievements--things that make us proud."

One reader wanted to read more controversy, saying Inside "makes Tulane look like an angel." Another said Inside needs to "get better connected with the departments" in gathering news. Overall, however, 77 percent of all readers agreed that Inside provides new information to them.

"I'm always happy to see it arrive and enjoy it as an information break," one staff member noted.

The publications office is studying the results for ways to improve Inside. Both the communications and publications offices issued thanks to all readers for their support and suggestions.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000