New viewbooks — depictive or deceptive?

“I live with 1,152 of my closest friends.”

These words may seem like the declaration of a worker ant, but they are actually the proud testimonial of a college student. The same student enjoys a college close to Philadelphia, New York City and the Poconos, has a chance to be hired by one of more than 400 companies and will more than likely pass by a mall if they travel 10 miles in any direction. This student attends The College of New Jersey. Need proof? Just consult the last year’s College viewbook.

The viewbook is the thin, colorful promotional pamphlet handed out to prospective students and their parents in hopes of luring them to the College. It offers a list of majors, athletic organizations and photos depicting students smiling and having a good time. It includes statistics that support the College’s academic reputation and comfortable community life. The word ‘best’ appears on nearly every page.

“I think it’s deceptive in a way,” Lenny Irgang, senior communication studies major, said. “We don’t have canoeing and we’re not that close to New York and there’s no place around here to go skiing.”

The last two pages of the viewbook contain photos of the best places in the area to eat, travel and shop. Between 30 and 40,000 viewbooks, replete with these “recommendations,” get distributed each year.

“It is convincing though,” Irgang said. “They do a good job promoting and really don’t waste any space. Just looking at the viewbook, I’d feel more compelled to come here.”

Kelly Truszkowski, junior accounting major, said that the viewbook exaggerated some parts of life at the College. “The campus is not as ethnically diverse as they make it seem,” Truszkowski said. “For the most part though, the view they give of TCNJ is accurate.”

“Since when is the grass in front of Travers and Wolfe a ‘beach?'” asked Dario Camara, senior communication studies major. “They exaggerated certain things, such as the distance to major cities. However, the layout was good and the pictures were pretty convincing.”

According to Cindy Friedman, director of Marketing and Publications, a new viewbook is due out soon. The inaccuracies, Friedman said, are a thing of the past.

“From a marketing perspective, we do like to put our best foot forward,” Friedman said. “However, we spend a lot of time doing research and talking with students. I think we give a good representation of life at the College.”

The new viewbook features a cover embossed with the College’s logo. Many of the properties of the old viewbook (the list of majors, pictures of students, etc.) remain.

“All of the pictures that appear in the viewbook are of actual students,” Friedman said. “We don’t use stock photos.”

In creating the new viewbook, the College worked with a marketing firm. North Charles Street Design Organization in Baltimore spent time on campus talking with students to get a feel for College life. One of the criticisms of the old viewbook that carried over into the new is the lack of pictures of academic and residence hall buildings.

“It isn’t because they are constantly under construction,” Friedman said. “Instead, we feel that or audience wants a real connection with the campus. To give them that, we primarily show people, not buildings.”

The new viewbook is currently being printed and should be available in time to distribute for the 2004-05 academic year.