Friday, August 11, 2006

Why the out-of-touch shouldn't touch the budget

Among the more interesting things I've been reading lately is, a wonderfully written (albeit often too snarky) product that is affiliated with, but vastly more entertaining than, the Columbia Journalism Review.

Now comes word that Nick Lemann, dean of Columbia University's Journalism school, has decided to cut the budget of CJRDaily in half. Why? According to the New York Times, Lemann wants to use "a portion of the magazine’s discretionary money for a direct-mail campaign to try to increase subscriptions to the print magazine." CJRDaily is about to launch a plan to sell advertising and sponsor conferences, but Lemann has decided in advance that there won't be enough revenue generated to run the site at full strength.
CJRDaily's managing editor Steve Lovelady quit in protest. So did assistant managing editor Bryan Keefer.
It would be easy to dismiss this as a battle between the old and the young, between mainstream media and new media. But things are seldom that simple. Lovelady is 63-years old and was once the managing editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and deputy Page 1 editor of The Wall Street Journal.

Now look -- I'm a media junkie. And my primary addiction is to media about media. So I suppose I'm exactly the sort of person that Lemann plans to start bothering with junk mail invites to subscribe to CJR magazine. In fact, I'm pretty sure I get those things already. But I never pay any attention to mailings from CJR. The truth is that I haven't bothered to read an issue of CJR in years. I had a subscription once or twice in my career. And every once in awhile I still come across a copy, open it up and take a look. But the magazine never engages me anymore. It's become less a "review" and more of a retrospective. It has the feel of nostalgia and tends to remind me of Grit, which bills itself as "America's family magazine since 1882" and fills its pages with articles that evoke that things-were-better-in-the-old-days feeling.
And that's why CJRDaily, which feels as if it's written by people who work in journalism rather than by folks who used to work in journalism, is far superior to CJR magazine.

Earlier this week I posted a link to an essay in the New Yorker written by Lemann. I said then that Lemann's piece probably wasn't worth reading, and suggested instead that the criticisms of Lemann's essay were far more interesting than the essay itself.
In fact, an entire industry seems to be emerging online dedicated to unraveling Lemann's thoughts. Take a look at this piece on that calls the CJRDaily a decision "an extraordinary mistake."

(Note: I'm heading out on the road to meet with clients. I don't expect to post anything to this blog for a week or so. While I'm sitting in airports and such, I'll make a point of looking at CJRDaily to see if it's still worth reading. And I'll check out some of the new sites that have caught my attention in the last few days, including Journalistopia, the D.C. chapter of ASBPE and TalkingBizNews. )

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1 comment:

  1. Lemann really IS print-centric, isn't he? Here's my take recently on his New Yorker piece.


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