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Dispatches from the Digital Revolution

Re: Newsweek

Guest writer Andy Dost studied journalism as part of his undergraduate coursework and has work experience in the publishing industry. Appazoogle invited him to share some of his thoughts about Newsweek, germinated in an email exchange with his electronically-skeptical mother, a 30-year veteran of editorial departments in the Chicago area.

To: Mom
From: Andy Dost
Subject: Re: Newsweek

Hey, Mom,

About Newsweek.

That writer I mentioned, Andrew Sullivan—I can tell you’re a print person when you don’t know Newsweek’s most popular blogger’s name—gave his opinion on the demise of the printed Newsweek. Sullivan said, “Look: I chose digital over print 12 years ago, when I shifted my writing gradually online, with this blog and now blogazine. Of course a weekly newsmagazine on paper seems nuts to me.”

And that’s nuts to you. The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times came to the doorstep every day of my life. Newsweek came in the mail every Wednesday. Now Newsweek leaves Time as the last weekly newsmagazine on paper.

I’ll miss the printed words that are going away, as, much to your chagrin, the stack of PC Accelerator and PC Gamer magazines I left in my old room attests. But I’m not going to tell you print news is all right. Some Tribune or Times will keep marching, but most content will head toward laptops, tablets, phones, etc.

Right now, we (as in, all the journalists and publishers that are our peers) debate whether to charge subscriptions for full sites or micropayments for small bits of content. We count how many employees should be cut. But digitalization requires the industry to eye more than the bottom line. We’re capable of it. News isn’t just an industry: it’s a service industry.

So what’s the best way to serve readers? What’s the best way to present content to readers that need it? (I know you hate that word “content.” Sometimes I do, too. I’ll keep saying “news.”) What’s the best way to present the news?

A newsweekly can’t do much against blogs and websites that take in so much content that they have to sum up the news of the day. (The Atlantic posts their picks for the best five columns of the day.) Print can’t keep up with curiosity. And the curious who live to find inaccuracies and prove others wrong can now access the same sources as the presented news. This makes for better news, and fact-checking can make its own news.

On that other meaning of access—access for all—libraries and schools will help there, too. (Yes! Stop panicking! We’re keeping those.) And we can couple that with other benevolent encouragement.

And how in the world does an industry keep up 24/7 with reporting and analysis without hiring a few new people? (There, I solved our unemployment problems! Well, not really. But I’m trying to drive home the “optimism” thing.)

I realize the dangers. But if Newsweek can give you a better Newsweek with this move, let them try. Even if their tablet app has to simulate print smudging.

You stayed with Newsweek for a reason, and I wouldn’t switch to Time just because it’s the only one left not glowing on a screen. But, Mom, I always rely on your optimism. I hope you can trust your son and his friends to keep the news bright.

Oh, and Santa might be bringing you a Kindle Paperwhite this year…

— Andy

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This entry was posted on October 25, 2012 by in Business, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , .

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