A number of years ago, but not ancient history, a magazine tried something really different: self-criticism of articles it published in the same issue the criticism appeared.
The periodical is a monthly, which matters only insofar as a certain luxury of time was afforded its critics (what they were criticizing had already been thought-through and edited) and timeliness of reporting was not of the essence; the pub’s content is features and lighter-weight “think” pieces.
Not that that matters all that much. At least not in terms of the publication’s willingness to turn a critical lens on itself.
Journalism’s role, one remembers, is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
But who critiques the critics? Which pundits have another pundit looking over their shoulders, willing to pick every nit and challenge every purported fact, conclusion or position? And do so on the pages following the original assertion or advocacy?
Brave move. And the benefits belonged only to the magazine’s readers.
Sadly, not only did the idea not catch on with other publications, it didn’t last long in the original, either.
Maybe six months.
Without explanation, the self-criticism disappeared. When first introduced, it had been ballyhooed by the magazine’s editor, later disappearing without notice.
The journalist’s willingness to challenge authority, the experts, the self-proclaimed know-it-alls, must be measured by the same willingness to listen to the voices and reasons of others.
Journalism, like politics, has a tendency toward embracing incestuous relationships. Talking (or listening), in today’s popular cliché, inside an echo chamber.
That all of one’s friends are of the same mind as you is hardly a surprise. It’s one predictable reason why they are your friends.
Friendship is based on compatibility, not antagonistic clashes. If it were the latter, then friendship would be like a trip to the dentist. And who looks forward to that?
The only thing remarkable about printed magazines today is that they are printed. Just for fun, count the number of pages in an issue where advertising – the lifeblood of publications – appears. Don’t worry, it’s unlikely you’ll have to take off your socks for this exercise.
And once they’re gone, they’re gone. There’s no coming back from extinction.
Which will be too bad. Magazines are a form of print intended for reflection, commentary, and well-developed reporting.
The magazine’s experiment was bold. Perhaps even moreso in hindsight than as it was initially published.
There’s a lesson there. Journalists speak truth to power. Sometimes speakers have to listen as well.
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