New Ideas, and Old

IdeasThere are a lot of news blurbs about companies—notably those in the publishing business—reinventing themselves to better fit the times; a few are even offering the opportunity to sign up for Citizen Journalism classes and such. It may not be a brave new world exactly, but the new media makes it look that way, some days. For example, Kansas University is inviting you to apply to their Citizen Journalism Academy. 

The World Company and the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kansas University are seeking applications for the Citizen Journalism Academy. The class will learn from educators and journalists about the processes and standards that help translate community activities and events into "news."

And it probably goes without saying that the teen magazines really have to work to keep their readers happy. It's a tough gig.

"You can't just be a magazine editor sitting in your office. You can no longer dictate. It is a two-way street," said Atoosa Rubenstein. Since joining Seventeen as editor-in-chief in July 2003, she has been spearheading a revival of the once-tired 62-year-old publication, which still leads in circulation among teen rivals. Rubenstein had helped to launch CosmoGIRL! as editor-in-chief back in 1999.

Meanwhile, back in the newsroom, traditional dailies are scrambling to remain current, and relevant. The Chicago Tribune seems to be figuring things out.

Most publications don't print anonymous letters to the editor, after all. Why, he asked, and I paraphrase, would they give Web real estate to nameless, faceless rhetorical bomb throwers (in some cases) who remain completely unaccountable for the views they express? Doesn't this simply degrade the quality of public discourse?

It's a fair question. I didn't enable comments on this blog for nearly two years in part because I shared some of Rhodes' reservations. And I rolled out the feature gradually.

But I've come to find the comments area here to be an entertaining and vigorous place that fairly represents a cross-section of views out there and often educates and challenges me in a fruitful way.

I don't miss all the paper that used to arrive in my mailbox, or on my doorstep, although there's one exception. Many years ago I had a subscription to BYTE, a monthly magazine packed with everything a closet computer geek could want. It's on the Web now—sadly, it isn't the same publication in many ways—but I still haven't got the guts to take my laptop into the bathroom the way I used to do with BYTE. That's what I really miss. Tom Halfhill was the magazine's senior editor until 1998, and from reading his FAQ on the death of BYTE, it’s clear he isn't all that thrilled, either, although for reasons strikingly different from my own.

But seriously, I miss that magazine. Considering the content and the fact it launched in 1975, it's a bit ironic that the new media version of it should be so lacking.


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