Another One Bites the Dust: Accumulating, Decorating & Collecting, Part 10

After more than a quarter century, the quarterly publication STYLE 1900 and its sister publication, the 15 year-old MODERNISM, have apparently ended their press runs.

A report last week in Bruce Johnson’s online publication, “Arts and Crafts Collector” (www.artsandcraftscollector.com) indicated financial reasons prompted shuttering the publications.

But, as Bluto Blutarsky insisted: “Nothing is over until we decide it is!”

To even the most casual observer, the action and the reason for the magazines’ demise can hardly arrive as news. Print media, regardless of their editorial intent, have been besieged and beleaguered by digital media for more than a decade. Maybe two.

NEWSWEEK magazine, once a proud and profitable publication with subscribers numbering in the millions, was sold for the ignominious price of one dollar ($1). The new owner brought in a new editor and writing staff, changed the magazine’s editorial focus from reporting to opining, and might as well have renamed itself News-whenever-we-feel-like-putting-out-an-issue.

The last printed issue of NEWSWEEK was dated December 31, 2012 and arrived, tellingly, on January 3.

Localities small and large have seen their daily newspaper reduced in page length, physical size, news hole, and, most recently, frequency of publication. In New Orleans, for instance, the TIMES-PICAYUNE now publishes three times weekly; likewise, and closer to (my) home, so does the Syracuse POST-STANDARD.

To stem the flow of red ink, the BOSTON GLOBE erected a non-subscriber pay-wall a few years ago followed, more recently, by its sister publication, the venerable NEW YORK TIMES. Few think the strategy idiosyncratic. None currently know how well the strategy will work: for subscribers, for drawing new readers, or for the company’s bottom line.

Who cares?

“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one,” said A.J. Liebling. Digital media mean everyone and anyone can be a publisher.

Having a voice – and a voice that transcends the area immediately surrounding one’s soapbox – should not be confused with a voice possessing accuracy. Another authority, former NY Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, once quipped: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Digital media prompt the emergence of so-called “citizen journalists.” That is as opposed to “trained” journalists or “professional” journalists.

What’s the difference? To whom will you turn for your next surgical procedure: a citizen surgeon?

All of this matters to the Collector who thrives on information. Most of this is significant to the Decorator who wishes to stay current (never mind ahead of the curve). And perhaps but for the deficit in pile-height, the demise of STYLE 1900 and MODERNISM may matter little to the Accumulator.

The history detailing a new medium’s entry in the existing media marketplace and the lessons to be learned by new and old media has been written over the past century. The seemingly inevitable hand-wringing as catharsis by legacy media yields, eventually, to the new order.

And legacy media persist.

The irony about the Web vis-à-vis legacy media is that precisely those qualities (depth, development, abundant citations) once widely touted as virtues of the Web are those least often present.

One more quote for this week. Linda Ellerbee’s TV catchphrase and title of her 1986 book: “And so it goes.”

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