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BATES TO DIFFER...: Jacob Weisberg thinks print is in its death throes, but Rolling Stone’s executive editor Eric Bates couldn’t disagree more, since you can go to the beach or curl up in your bathtub with a magazine!
“It’s really not possible to get together in a room full of journalists anymore without having a conversation about the profession itself and the future of the profession,” Bates said to a room full of student journalists in a conversation about the profession at Columbia’s Journalism School on Thursday night.
Bates was primed to respond to a few comments last week’s lecturer had made to the same class. “I heard [Slate group editor in chief] Jacob Weisberg told you that print would be dead soon. I’ll try to speak quickly,” he began, and was met with half-hearted laughter.
Bates then made an argument that sounded a lot like those Power of Print ads that the Association of Magazine Media put together a couple of years ago (the ones that his boss, Jann Wenner, helped create).
“I think it’s important to note that what we’re talking about when we talk about the death of journalism, or what your speaker from Slate last week called print, is really about newspapers,” he explained. “But magazines are in a very different position from newspapers relative to the Internet. To me, if you think about it, magazines in a way were a pre-Internet precursor of the Internet. Magazines do a lot of the things that the Internet does for us. You go to a magazine, much as you go to a Web site, often looking for a community of likeminded people who share your interests.”
He continued: “I sometimes say that, you know, if you think about it, if we didn’t have print magazines now, if all we had was the Internet, and I somehow incredibly invented the print magazine, and said, ‘Hey, look at this!’—would that product survive? And I think the answer is yes, because it’s portable, it’s high-resolution graphics, beautiful like an iPhone if it’s done right. You can read it in the bathtub or at the beach or during takeoff. You can share it with your friends. It’s got a lot of attributes that you want when you go looking for information and stories. And that’s been borne out in our experience at Rolling Stone over the past 10 years.”
Later, a student got up and volunteered to read a few lines from Matt Taibbi’s Andrew Breitbart obituary that had come out that day. Bates mentioned he had intended to read it to the class himself, but no matter. The student proceeded to read the opening from a particularly beautiful iPhone.