Wednesday, June 18, 2008

“print has been under terrible pressure since 2000.”

To an outsider, Mary Kuntz’s recent career switch might seem quite intrepid: she went from BusinessWeek, where she was employed for thirteen years as an editor with “significant responsibility,” to McKinsey & Company where she now deals with client consulting and management of the McKinsey Quarterly. Two equally impressive yet very different jobs.

But to Kuntz, the move was necessary. “Print has been under terrible pressure since 2000,” she tells me at yet another Starbucks (they should give me free coffee or something.). “I had to handle a lot of painful lay-offs at BusinessWeek, and it was becoming harder and harder to achieve our goals when so many people no longer worked there.”

To be honest, this disclosure depressed me immensely. While I’m not always a glass-is-half-full kind of gal, I have tried to remain optimistic in the face of what Leslie Bennetts referred to as the “imploding profession” of journalism. But if someone as successful as Kuntz felt the need to, in a sense, hop a lifeboat off of this hopeless Titanic, what does that say for the rest of us?

However, for the sake of our collective sanity, I will try to fill that metaphorical glass back up. Because let’s face it – we can’t ignore the Internet. We can’t ignore how much it has affected print, and we can’t ignore how amazing it truly is. So we can all give up and lament, between shots of whiskey, about the tragic downfall of journalism (seemingly akin to the fall of the Roman Empire), or we can roll with the changes like normal, well-adjusted human beings.

And roll is exactly what BusinessWeek has done in the past few years. One of Kuntz’s proudest professional accomplishments, she says, is having helped during the magazine’s major redesign project. “If you take a BusinessWeek from a few years ago and one from today,” she claims, “the two will look completely different.”

Some changes were aesthetic, such as using smaller photos and “quieter” graphics to make pages look more “serious, thoughtful, and elegant.” The stories, photos, and graphics were all changed to be more conceptual than literal.

Other changes allude to the fact that the Internet has changed the way we acquire information. BusinessWeek added a summary section meant to recap longer, heftier stories and essays. Additionally, the letters to the editors have been relocated to a spread in the back of the magazine called “Feedback.” In this newly developed section, if a particular story receives a lot of reader attention, all the comments will be laid-out and the author will have a chance to respond.

Sound familiar? The aggregation of the publication, this act of condensing long pieces into pretty little blurb-like packages, is an obvious reflection of the Internet, which is so fond of recapping and summarizing for the convenience of its overly informed readers. The magazine’s “Feedback” section is very blog-like itself, facilitating a textual dialogue between authors and readers. With people being newly accustomed to speaking their minds on the Internet, wouldn’t the inability to respond to printed articles seem repressive and confining?

1 comment:

dgold911 said...

New York Magazine also eliminated their letters to the editor. It also condenses the letters into a synopsis of compliments or complaints about a particular article. But unlike in BusinessWeek there is no dialogue. And I hate the new section. I actually prefer to read what individual readers think rather than the magazine's take on reader's opinions. To me that's too much censorship.