I read today that Newsweek will cease publication of its print version at the end of 2012: http://money.cnn.com/2012/10/18/news/companies/newsweek-print-edition/index.html?hpt=hp_t3.
This is sad news. The magazine is another casualty of the shift toward electronic texts, which, as I have written about here before (and yes, I am aware of the irony of writing against digital culture in a blog), is not nearly as positive of a trend as it is made out to be. From a practical standpoint, I question whether this decision will help Newsweek. I don’t think many of their print readers will shift over to the electronic edition, nor do I think that people who primarily read news online will be interested in getting it from Newsweek. In other words, the magazine’s declining sales aren’t just a result of a decline in print readers, they are also a result of a shift in people’s view of the news. My late teens/early twenties students make it clear that “getting the news” is not important to them, whereas for someone even of my generation (I was born in 1980), reading the news has always been an essential aspect of being an educated person. The shift from print to electronic texts is problematic in part because we lose the ritual aspects of reading that makes reading something fun to do, and without this ritual people read less and society gets dumber.
Newsweek‘s demise saddens me in part for personal reasons because my mother has subscribed to it for all of my life, and it was the first magazine that I read on a regular basis, simply because it was around. Being exposed to it at such an early age is what helped me to realize that educated people care about the world around them, and helped me begin exploring other ways of learning about the world as well. My mother is an example of the audience that Newsweek will lose as a result of it shift to being a web-only publication. She uses the internet some, but is not enamored with it enough to use it for tasks other than keeping up with what her children are doing. She’ll just continue to get news from her local newspaper and do without the extra information that she gets from the magazine.