I think it’s sad, but not surprising that Newsweek is ending its print run. If you haven’t heard about it, get the details here:
Here is the official announcement from their website:
After 80 years, Dec. 31, 2012 will be the last print issue. I started the habit of reading Newsweek when I took a World Studies class in high school. Each member of the class got a weekly issue at what I’m sure was either free or a reduced rate because they were trying to create a habit and with me it worked. I missed getting the weekly roundup and I subscribed on my own (this was in the early 1990s and I continued for more than a decade). I would read (sometimes skim but mostly read) it cover to cover. A lot of the topics covered were not things that I would ever have looked at on my own and that was what I liked about it. I think it made me more aware of things that I wouldn’t have pursued or known about otherwise. Even the editorials (I loved the editorial cartoon section, especially the double issue with the large section of best of the year cartoons) I felt widened my world view on how other people were seeing or responding to events.
Some people are saying a weekly news magazine doesn’t really have a role anymore. I really don’t see anything stepping up to fill that gab of pointing out what of all the noise was actually important that week and gathering varying viewpoints on the news in one spot. I think that was a truly useful function and it still would be. However, whether it is or not, I don’t think the end of the usefulness of that role is what happened here. I subscribed to Newsweek to fill the role I described, but I let my subscription run out years ago. Because I no longer had need of a news round up? No. Because I didn’t like getting it in print? Nope. Because it had lost the qualities that I read it for as I described above? BINGO! The quality of the reporting went downhill rapidly. The editorial slant, which I admit was always there, got more and more egregious. They were caught printing rumors as facts because they fit with their political viewpoint and never apologized or admitted it. Newsweek lost its way a long time ago and going digital won’t help it, except that sadly online news tends to be ever more focused to your point of view, so maybe their current slanted system will work better there. Very few people I’ve met online listen to multiple voices for news and don’t even understand how they have distorted their own world view by only following or listening to those that agree with their own worldview. Newsweek‘s end of print may say a lot about our culture, about the lack of people taking time to read in-depth articles about the world, about the slide of party position back into news, and may raise challenges, where is the record for future research if there is nothing hard and unchangeable for a record, about the folly of abandoning the core purpose of your organization (I also cancelled TV Guide once it abandoned its format of actually telling me what was on television when), but what it doesn’t tell us is that paper format is dead, because no one much was reading Newsweek as a paper magazine anymore because it had abandoned already the reasons people read it whether it was online or paper.
Ironically I learned the news digitally through multiple postings on a couple of different librarians listservs I belong to (although listservs also seem to be less effective than they once were) that featured links. One was the factual one above, but I want to include two others that another post offered that were also on whether this meant the end of print. Frankly I think it’s going to be a change in dominance of print as a format rather than it’s total destruction, but I certainly could be wrong. Right now digital books and newspapers are going through a bit of a false golden age. They are so new that people are still infatuated with the novelty factor. Costs for digital products are negligible (partially through the lack of a physical format and distribution, but also because 1. almost all costs for products offered in both formats is being marked against the paper version so the digital is all profit 2. people are willing to do work for free for the novelty, except for with a small group this never lasts long). When those things burn off people will have to start paying if they expect people to do work like writing, editing, formatting, archiving and protecting and digital costs will have to rise. There will be some things, mostly time sensitive things that you would quickly trash if they were paper and things that it is useful to be able to search full text that digital will do the best and others that people will still want paper for. The amount of things in the paper format I see declining greatly, but not disappearing altogether for a long time. This first post talks about a particular publication and how it deliberately serves different purposes and people with its digital and paper formats.
They also followed up with a different author and a more negative slant on the future of paper, but the librarian who recommended both encourages you to read the comments under both, especially the ones that relate to libraries.
And before it goes, a look back to the first issue: