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Wednesday, 23 May 2018


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I was just yesterday talking to my wife about the possibility of changing our paper subscription (local) to online only. At this point, the thing that keeps us subscribing to print is just how bad the website is.

We also subscribe to the NYT online, but every time I see another article about the lifestyles of the .00001 percent I want to spend my money elsewhere.

I see nothing at all wrong with your vision for a public "Life," even an online only one.

Good Post. I especially like and agree with the second paragraph

But the impact of a front page, whether it be the ones declaring victory in Europe (1945), "Dewey defeats Truman," or the NYT front page that reported Comey reopening the emails investigation will be lost when news sources are online and changing every minute. Already some material appears in the online but not the print editions, and vice versa. Losing the print front page of the NY Post and Daily News will be an equal loss. Remember "Ford to City: Drop Dead!" ??

You can buy this new, which is cool.

Yes really cool. I want one.

I see the once thriving magazine aisles and alcoves in local retail stores shrink down to a shelf or two. The only magazine I buy now is Black and White. The US version for collectors of B&W photography.

No I am not a collector but I especially enjoy the contest additions. Inspiration ya know?

A Janus "hard-tail" motorcycle with no rear suspension, a wobbly leading link front suspension and a flexi-flyer frame?

No, thank you.

Give me a Honda CBR600 any day of the week. This is an example where 21st century industrial design trumps nostalgia any day of the week.

Honda Motor, known in the motorcycle industry as "Big Red" is the dominant manufacturer of motorcycles worldwide.

There are very good reasons for this.

While I agree with your thrust, your penultimate paragraph reveals an interesting dichotomy. When I was growing up, The Manchester Guardian was still essentially a local paper. Then it became a major UK paper, now it is not surprising to learn of a subscriber in New York. In the same way I now often read the Washington Post and the New York Times. Neither would have happened without news moving online. We may have lost a lot, but we have gained at least something in its place.

I won't miss Shutterbug in its later permutations, but I sure do miss (and have for a long time) Shutterbug Ads, when it was mostly classified ads for photo equipment, interspersed with columns written by a group of mostly genuine eccentrics who were frequently off the wall, but always interesting to read.

But as far as good, general interest and news magazines such as Life, they will always, as has the New York Times, become less and less diversified in world view and more and more become vehicles for a relentless, exclusive "Progressivism" (neo-Marxism).

The novel "Neither Five nor Three," by Helen McInnes, now long out of print but still available in used book outlets, gives a concise but chilling picture of the process by which this has happened.

"I subscribe to the essential New York Times (others choose The Wall Street Journal) and The Guardian."

Also essential: The Washington Post. I subscribe to it and the NY Times.

The Paragraph beginning "The Problems I see it..." is just brilliant writing. The Clarity that you bring to "What we are losing' is not only ,in my view, accurate, but is beautiful as well.

Too many times, anyone who voices concern over what we are losing in the digital revolution is cast as a luddite who is afraid of change.
I would argue that we desperately need a better understanding of the best that we are losing in order to make new technologies better, truer replacements that build upon the best of the past.

Re your admittedly impractical Idea of a Subsidized National news magazine. ---It hits on a related issue, in the heyday of Life magazine it had broad enough circulation to give a large part of the country a shared experience, which tended to unite people. With news on demand we each tend to seek out points of view that are similar to our own, which tends to polarize more than unite.
Even the "Ed Sullivan Show" gave us all something to talk about on Monday morning. It was good for us,

You really raised an important question, How do we encourage, enjoy, support and grow with new technology without losing the best parts of who we are and the best structures of the society we built.

Well Done, Thank You

You said: "The problem as I see it is … we lose... 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".

This is one of the most memorable quotes I've read in a long time. I'm sorry I had to shorten it. When is the last time you watched any news program and heard just the facts of what happened? Today all we get is newscasters' opinions of what the facts mean and by implication how we should feel.

Not wishing to seem rude, but an observation about the United States of America would be that by becoming a federation, rather than a confederation of independent states (which is what "the south" thought they were joining), you have already laid waste any form of genuine familial unity.

The differences between the peoples of the different nations within the USA, even though you mostly speak English or Spanish, is immense.

However, I have read here that you dislike the idea of Brexit. Those of us who want it (but apparently aren't going to get it), love the diversity that is Europe now, but won't be in a few generations of federation and one size fits all bureaucracy.

It is basics like this that lead you to mourn the loss of a national newspaper or publication such as "Life"..

I've been a big fan of Jack Shafer for years. He does a good job of putting the news business in context and has consistently pointed out that dewy-eyed nostalgia for the golden age of newspapers is misplaced.

Whatever happens to the news business, you have to admit that massive high-speed printing of text and pictures on cheap, flimsy paper, delivering those papers to distribution points, and then the last mile to every household by kids on bicycle only to be thrown away the next day seems crazy in retrospect.

I subscribe to the London Review of Books which has print and an online presence like many others. I appreciate both - I use the online archive to search for stuff (like favourite contributors or articles that I've mislaid), but I would probably cancel my subscrition if it went online-only. I was interviewd by them a few months ago about their forthcoming website redesign. The conversation turned also to my use and preference for the printed version. Apart from the usual things like the ritual of the bi-weekly arrival when I'd take the issue to the cafe in the morning and muse over it, I enjoy the design and typography (especially as a web developer myself who rages against the anti-tyranny of flexible and multi format deliveries) I surprised them most by declaring that I actually like the adverts and classifieds in the printed version - how they contribute to the layout etc and I've often made purchases via them, something I've never done with online advertising which I routinely bypass or ignore.

I'm surprised you didn't link to the recent NY Times article on the death of Time, Inc.

Mike the reason the magazine and newspaper industry is disappearing is quite simply because things have moved on and the generations which have come after you have no interest in keeping them going, this is the way things have always been and probably always will be,I find it fascinating that we as a species have not yet come to terms with this inevitability and we still believe that life as we experienced it in our early and formative years was so much better and believe it should be preserved in aspic for all time.
It's depressing that no generation has escaped this hankering after the past and the constant denigrating of the evolution of technology and peoples tastes and ways of living in the present,get over it Mike this is the way it is and always will be,Rant over,boy I enjoyed that,no offence intended.

Growing up we had Life Magazine in the house and I read it (mostly the pictures) every week. We also had Fortune which I read as well.

Fortune is still in business. Just sayin'.

The problem with all print media going online, is the manipulation it allows for. In 1984 teams of Winstion Smiths needed to actively rewrite the past of the party, physically putting old copies into the memory hole where they burned. Online, this can be done far more easily at the touch of an unseen button. News items can appear in an online copy for a few minutes and then disappear again, fulfilling a token requirement for balance. If complaints are made, the news agency can claim that they did report that point of view (even if only for a few moments) - this happens regularly on the BBC.

You leave openings for a lot of commentary here, but I'll stick to newspapers. IMHO, the real decline of newspapers began when private/family newspaper owners, which dominated until sometime in the 80s, found that they could get a whole lot of money out of their newspapers and newspaper chains by going public. And, best of all, they could usually retain control. But there was (more opinion here) an unexpected consequence: public corporations have to keep meeting stock market expectations, and if they don't, the stock price will fall. That essentially meant that newspapers couldn't have a bad year, or the stockholders would lose their shirts. When papers were owned by a family, which was already ungodly rich, they could take a bad year, or several bad years, and simply suck it up. They didn't need the cash at the end of the quarter, like a public company does.

After the public companies had mechanized and modernized as much as they could (which meant stuff like eliminating printers) they still couldn't have a bad year -- and that meant that the newsroom had to be cut. Personnel costs were about all that was left. And here's another unintended and unseen consequence: how do you fill up a paper, how do you cover the stuff that newspapers are supposed to cover, if you eliminate reporters? Well, what they did, was create newspapers that were editor-driven rather than reporter-driven, which was a disaster. It appeared to be more efficient -- every reporter wrote a story every day, which was far from the case when papers were reporter-driven. When a paper is reporter-driven, you'd have instances in which, say, the cop reporter would come back and say, "Well, there's not really much going on today." That doesn't happen on an editor driven-paper, where a cop reporter would be told to make a quick (and usually superficial) cop check, and then be sent out on some other editor-created story. And that means you need fewer reporter. The problem with that? The editor is a guy in a shirt and tie sitting at a desk all day, and he knows about as much of what's going on in a town as any other guy who sits at a desk all day. What the editor thinks is going on, doesn't necessarily have any relationship with what is actually going on in town. Huge, important, obvious stories are missed because reporters are not sitting on major news/information channels anymore...instead, they're doing made-up stories which are usually irrelevant to a city's life. Desperate editors are literally making up stories by looking in the Yellow Pages for interesting jobs ("Go interview that diamond cutter and see what that's all about.")

After I quit newspapers in the early 90s, I'd still call the city desk occasionally when I'd see what I thought was a story. Usually, I was ignored, but I persisted until one day I was driving through the town of Stillwater, Mn., (part of the Twin Cities Metro area) where a large building had collapsed across a major highway. The newspaper didn't know about it, and when I called the City Desk, was unable to get a reporter there. The story the next day was what we called a "phoner" -- somebody called the local cops and produced a six-inch short...and this was really in the heart of that newspaper's coverage area. That's when I quit calling.

So, IMHO, newspapers were already fading when the 'net came along with the coup de grace. There are still some (usually family-owned) newspapers that seem to be healthy. But not many.

Hmmm, the link for the "brand new film Leica" that you can still buy says it is discontinued. It's to the silver version, the black is still listed as in stock at B&H.


Alfred Schopf commented in a 2014 interview that Leica produces about 1000 film Ms per year, of which roughly 60% are sold in Japan.

I notice that the Leica M7 TTL .72 Rangefinder Camera you linked to on B&H is now shown as discontinued... Did your link lead to a flurry of impulse purchases of the very last of the M7s?

[It was listed as "More on the way" when I linked to it. --Mike]

They'll take away my paper New York Times when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

Consumer preference for motion killed LIFE. Before 1950 people got their motion fix at the local movie theater, where they watched newsreels from Pathé News https://www.youtube.com/user/britishpathe and The March of Time http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/343404%7C0/75th-Anniversary-of-The-March-of-Time.html After 1950, television news/documentaries replaced LIFE and Look for most Americans. LIFE ceased publication in 1972.

Reading was important to my family. My father was a member of the National Geographic Society, my mother subscribed to Redbook and McCall's Magazine. There were always magazines like Collier's and Popular Science around the house—but never LIFE magazine. Like me, my parents were more interested in ideas and literature than photos.

I took to reading magazines on my (utterly useless but ever-present) tablet some time ago. One small nod to sustainability, and one less trip to the recycling centre every few months with bundles of tied up magazines.

But I can't let go of daily newspapers. For one thing, they make very good lens testing targets, and for another, I never gelled with the idea of doing crosswords on an electronic device. It is a soulless and contrived experience where more time is spent navigating than solving clues, and there is no scratchpad to work out anagrams.

It will be a sad day when my daily lunch break in the cafe across the road is no longer spent musing over the Guardian cryptic. It keeps me occupied for almost exactly an hour, before I return to work.

I don't have so much of a problem with publications going digital only as with the fact that the contents is often diluted to serve the shallow social media crowd (sorry, don't want to offend but it's my opinion).

And of course that for most papers, digital or dead tree the photographer is becoming extinct and replaced by reader's iPhone snaps...

The M7 in silver shows as discontinued but the black is in stock at B&H.

Not to your point, I know, but Dan Havlik is doing a pretty good job with Shutterbug.

It was a "rag" in the worst sense when I last saw it.

All fair enough, the other side is the list of most read parts of printed newpapers - as I remember it told to me, in order.
1. The classifieds
2. The weather
3. comics or sports depending

And I recall being told and then proving by experiment that a substantial number of people paid no attention at all to the front page(!), let alone the editorials and other "cultural" content. None. It was fishwrap before it was printed.

I'm not so sure that things have changed all that much....

@ Michael Roche

With all due respect I find this dispiritingly, depressingly and reductively too simplistic. Yes, things do move on, but much is objectively lost in the process. A wise generation would hope to learn from the best of the past, but that wisdom is hard to come by. perhaps that is what you mean by inevitable.

John Camp nailed it, as usual. His description of the latter days of print newspapers reads a lot like the early 1970s version of a TV newsroom. Reporters (using the term far too loosely) sent out on assigments invented by people who never ventured out of the air conditioning, only to find there was no story there. Yet, having to conjure up something to fill the allotted time or be seen as failing. As technology moved farther into the domain of microwave-linked news vans, rather than people in cars, that time filling demand became more and more satisfied by senseless live shots. Every time you see some poor schmuck doing a live shot from a darkened parking lot where something happened six hours ago you witness once more the victory of technology over reason.

One thing missing from this longing look back at the era of print is the figure of media magnate as tyrant. While many metropolitan newspapers were owned by wealthy individuals who were at least benign if not civic idealists, others were often the tools of bigots, self-dealing influencers of politics, and pathways to self-aggrandizement. Before the Murdochs there were the Hearsts, Luces, and Annenbergs. They were but a few of the national and big city print media owners who ruled the world of public opinion and wanted it their way, the only righteous way.

Oh, well. At least before there were blogs there was I.F. Stone’s Weekly. For anyone with a long enough memory to be interested the entire run of its publication is available archived. Online, of course.

I mostly read about Life (the magazine), rather than seeing it. We got the New York Times and the New Yorker, and various magazines (The Atlantic I remember for sure, and The Nation). I added some science fiction magazines and some camera magazines when I got old enough to have the money.

And all my parents' periodicals are still in print, whereas mine aren't; interesting.

So my idea of a newspaper doesn't even have comics in it (but I did check out the New Yorker cartoons regularly).

We still get the LA Times and Sunday NY Times on paper but read them online too. If you want to read back issues, try the "Wayback Machine" http://archive.org/web/.
My wife subscribed to the Atlantic for the articles and discovered their photo section which we think is the evolution of the LIFE/LOOK era. Try this on the volcano on Hawaii: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2018/05/photo-updates-from-kilauea-the-lava-meets-the-sea/561059/
Most online papers have photo sections that showcase their staff's works.

Anyone interested in the current state of journalism might pay some attention to "The World Turned Upside Down" by Melanie Phillips.

Phillips argues that "the West has replaced reason & truth with ideology & prejudice, resulting in a form of mass derangement, as truth & falsity, right & wrong, victim & aggressor have become confused."

Many journalists (of which she is one) seem to have drunk the same KoolAid.

You jinxed it. The M7 is now discontinued.

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