Politico magazine (online!) has a short-but-good article about the death of newspapers, using The Denver Post as a case in point. It's written from a sympathetic but realistic point of view.
The problem as I see it is not that old media is dying, but that the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater—in this case meaning that we lose the culture, ethical norms, and practical production methodologies of the content of the news...the structures that have been put in place over decades, even centuries, to insure a good semblance of impartiality, fairness, accuracy, and a bright-line separation between reporting and opinion. We also lose the hard-won structures of fair payment for honest work. The Internet might be more convenient, more easily tailored to suit, more on-demand, and cheaper, but there are few similar safeguards in place yet. All that we're losing—all that hard-won, well-evolved culture that goes along with the medium—we're going to have to learn all over again. Alas.
Meanwhile, in our little corner of the firmament, Shutterbug magazine has announced that it will cease to publish a paper version. Fair enough—will anyone really shed a tear? The online version seems to be doing fine. It seems to be just a logical progression, not emblematic of anything. Just a sign of the times.
However, I've always regretted the fact that modern human beings give so much primacy so absolutely to capitalistic filters. With product categories, there are usually a few survivors that honor the best of the bygone past—consider for instance that you can still buy, brand new, a film Leica. That's as it should be, sez me...a throwback, yes, but it's a throwback that honors the best of the past.
But that's life
I've always had the idea that LIFE magazine should have been institutionalized somehow. Imagine a picture magazine that arrived into the households of every American every week, telling selected stories in still photographs of all aspects of American life, news, and culture. Yes, we can get a good analogue of the same thing online if we go looking for it. The difference is that a magazine freezes the images into final form, the editing plays a major part in shaping the stories, and—most importantly—having one such publication "set aside" in that way would provide shared common experience across the culture. That's what would have made it valuable...it could have been a shared context to provide a basis for discussion and understanding.
You can buy this new, which is cool.
I guess the only way such a thing could happen is if the government were to subsidize it, and that can't happen in the United States (although it does with NPR and public television). Certainly not now.
Hopefully, a few large English-speaking newspapers will make the transition to online versions, as seems to be happening. I subscibe to the essential New York Times (others choose The Wall Street Journal) and The Guardian.
The idea of a subsidized picture magazine is an impractical, impossible idea and I acknowledge and accept that. But that doesn't stop me from wishing it had somehow come to pass. Sometimes, culture provides triumphs—things that are valuable above and beyond their grubby, quotidian bottom lines. It's too bad that so many of those things have to be swept away simply because the business climate or the underlying technology, inevitably, changes.
"Open Mike" is the not always off-topic Editorial page of TOP. When the moon and the stars align, it appears on Wednesdays.
Original contents copyright 2018 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Lee Rust: "When I went to journalism school in the early 1970s it was all about who-what-when-where-why, and how to be a responsible gatekeeper for the inner sanctum of public news and information. The operating principal was that a well-informed citizenry could make rational decisions if they were presented with a professionally moderated and curated data set.
"Underlying everything was the explicit assumption of a civic responsibility that was rigorously held separate from the base demands of commercial advertising profitability and subscriber revenue.
"If in fact that journalistic ideal was ever actually achieved in the romantically idealistic past, there is absolutely no doubt that it has been thoroughly discarded in this cruelly cynical Internet era.
"These days, all ad-based media function as some form of entertainment or another and the only rule is the rigid numbers game of eyeballs and ears. You get 'em and you're golden, you lose 'em and you're toast. It's that simple. For subscription-supported media the world is somewhat less harsh, but the steadily rising number of competitors continually dilutes the potential base of support for any one outlet.
"Holdout exceptions might be news outlets like The Washington Post or others that are owned and operated by exceedingly wealthy and/or obsessively dedicated individuals or organizations...but these are by definition a dwindling minority. [See also John Camp's comment on this point, in the Comments section. —Ed.]
"Meanwhile the cost of production is ever increasing, especially if physical materials like paper have to be processed and distributed. We will say goodbye to the physical editions of just about everything, especially for specialized audiences like Shutterbug, and hard-copy periodicals will be strictly luxury items.
"Now, the virtual gatekeepers are Facebook, YouTube, Google and all their derivatives and imitators. The robot algorithm that generates the Google News page is driven strictly by what people actually choose, rather than by what they might need.
"Barring the failure of the technological infrastructure due to calamity or catabolic collapse, we are living in a new normal and will each have to make a special place for ourselves within it. That's why some of us are here in front of our personal devices reading theonlinephotographer.typepad.com instead of shutterbug.com."
JohnMFlores: "About that cool Janus motorcycle...I considered riding one cross country in 2016 because the style evoked an earlier era. But as you know, I ended up following George A. Wyman's trip with the electric Zero instead. On Memorial Day, Richard Worsham, a co-founder of Janus Motorcycles, will begin his own trip across the country from San Francisco to New York City astride one of his own. Read more here."