In praise of print: Periodicals will endure

The media has been all over the media this week. The good news is that this narcissism may be justified.

On April 8, The New York Post reported allegations that Jared Paul Stern, one of the paper’s contributors, extorted $220,000 from a California billionaire in order to keep said billionaire’s dirty laundry off said paper’s infamous gossip page. The New York Daily News, the Post’s biggest rival, smelled fresh blood and bit. The ensuing tabloid tit-for-tat has inspired headline writers across the country.

On April 2, The New York Times unveiled a totally retooled Web platform, featuring navigable and intuitive tabs, exclusive video content, links to the blogosphere, and a layout that at least in theory resembles a broadsheet newspaper. This is a vast improvement over the old site, which in theory seemed more akin to a library card catalog. The Chicago Tribune, Slate and London’s Daily Telegraph all carried the story.

In these pages, fellow News columnist Roger Low’s recent spat with Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund led me to discover opinionjournal.com, the Journal’s version of an opinion blog. The Journal’s effort is somewhat reminiscent of a Harley trying to nose its way into a minibike race. But the site succeeds in balancing the authority of the typeset establishment with the irreverence of the backyard blogger, and thanks to Low’s allegation that Fund libeled one of my classmates, I’ve discovered a resource I intend to come back to.

Wait a minute. Aren’t the major dailies supposed to be dying a slow and agonizing death?

Post-Jayson Blair, when the Times makes international headlines, the natural response is to ask which managers are feuding, which reporter is being imprisoned or which journalist has fabricated a front-page story. “Our world needs skilled, committed journalists as never before,” University President Richard Levin said in announcing Steven Brill’s Yale Journalism Initiative earlier this year, implying either that today’s world is different, or that journalism is in a sorry state.

Say you want to go into print journalism, and you might as well have said you aspire to work in the U.S. auto industry. Prevailing wisdom says it’s a dying game. The rise of the blogs — a dark, invidious towering threat — looms over Fortress Broadsheet.

Yet the Times redesign and the tabloid brouhaha suggest that this isn’t true at the national level. Print is adapting. And publications at Yale prove the point.

The Globalist Foundation, founded by juniors Eleonora Sharef, Dain Lewis and Rawen Huang, is building an international network of foreign affairs magazines at top universities around the world. With chapters at Yale, Peking University, Cambridge University, Sydney University, Hebrew University and University of Toronto, the Globalist Foundation is printing six magazines in three languages while simultaneously developing an interactive online community for its contributors and readers.

The Roosevelt Institution, a national progressive student-run think tank with a chapter at Yale, is making efforts to get its policy journal into the hands of its target audience through a more time-tested route: university libraries. Jesse Wolfson ’07, the Institution’s Director of Publications and editor in chief of the Roosevelt Review, said, “Our goal over the next year is to get the Roosevelt Review into American university libraries.” After establishing the channels to reach their primary audience, Roosevelt will push to make their policy papers available through online academic databases.

The Yale Economic Review, founded by junior Richard Ludlow, has carved out a new niche by publishing the sort of economic research that non-economists want to read. “As long as there are toilets, there will be a market for magazines,” Ludlow said in an e-mail. “And you only need to look at the best-seller ‘Freakonomics’ to see that economics is a far-reaching field that can generate interest among a very wide audience.” Currently, economic research is only being published in specialized journals. Ludlow wants to distribute to business schools, law schools, think tanks and corporations.

Finally, there is the Yale Angler’s Journal. Yes, the Yale Angler’s Journal. The Yale Angler’s Journal publishes art, poetry, prose and scientific articles submitted by fishermen from throughout the world. It is printed biannually and mailed to an international subscription base. And apparently, it sustains itself. “The Yale Anglers’ Journal seeks to promote artistic expression of the natural world as experienced through fishing,” editor Wyatt Golding ’06 said in an e-mail.

If The Yale Angler’s Journal can sustain itself, so can the New York Times. Print journalism can go global. It can go niche. It can go library. It can go ichthyic. The New York Post gossip scandal proves the Yale trend. As long as there are toilets, print’s future will be safe.



Daniel Weisfield is a junior in Calhoun College. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays.

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