Mark Glaser interviews Samir Husni about magazines, the web

Mark has an indepth interview with Mr. Magazine, Samir Husni. I recommend it for those interested in magazines. Since I have spent time over the years discussing magazines with Samir, I’m not surprised that I agree with most everything he says. However, there are a couple of subtle disagreements I have.

First, I disagree with his blanket assertion that “blogging is not journalism.” If he meant to say, “what I do on my blog is not journalism,” I can agree, as I recently said something similar: that I do not consider what I do here journalism, or even Writing, for that matter. However, if what he meant was “no blogging is journalism,” I can categorically disagree as I know many bloggers who practice classic journalism on a blogging platform — Mark Glaser, for example. And I know journalists who blog with the same degree of professionalism and reporting skills on their blogs as they do when reporting or writing using other platforms. A blog is like a blank slate — what goes onto it can be journalism or it can be lunatic ranting. The “blog” platform does not prevent it from being a vessel for classic journalism. Or, at least, that’s what the Pulitzer Committee communicated when they awarded the Times Picayune a 2006 Pulitzer for reporting that was, for many days, distributed via a weblog.

The second point of disagreement — a slight one — regards his stance towards “putting a magazine’s content on the web.” He makes a great point that magazine editors do a good job of pushing their print readers to the web and a lousy job of pushing their web readers to print — and I share his contention that the print and online presence of a magazine should not mirror one another, but be different, complementary experiences. However, I would argue that placing text from a story in a magazine on the magazine’s website is not putting the magazine on the web. Even digital versions of magazines that display the design of the print piece is merely a replica of a magazine — not a magazine.

The “words” from a magazine that appear on a website are not the magazine. It’s like comparing the experience of streaming video on YouTube to watching HD television on a 60 inch plasma screen. Or, it’s like comparing watching a football game on a 60 inch plasma screen to having tickets on the 50-yard line. Same content: different experience. The words from a magazine that appear on the web are, at best, a sampling of the magazine — not the experience of the magazine.

Lastly, the editor from Newsweek who told Samir’s students that the “max” number of words someone will read in an article on the Internet is spewing faux data from an imaginary source. It’s a myth. How do I know? Well, Samir makes that quote roughly 1,659 words into the interview. And I read it — and kept reading to the end, about 1,400 words later. If Mark Glaser had interviewed Samir for a magazine article, do you think the editor would have let it run the 3,000+ words that are included on the website? Heck, maybe I’m the only person who read all the way to the 3,000th word, but I’m sure glad Mark didn’t have to deal with any of the constraints that a magazine would have placed on him.

Unlike Samir, I am not offended when a magazine tells me to go online to read or listen to an entire interview with someone. I think magazines have a higher calling than being repositories of archival material — give me the edited version in the magazine — that’s what great writers and reporters do: find the story in all those words people say. However, I think it’s great when you also provide me the means to read online everything that ended up on the cutting room floor — the full interview. Heck, give it to me in a transcript, in audio or video.

  • Rex, there seems to be two concepts that people can’t hold in their head at the same time. They are the constant change in history in regards to content delivery and a viable business plan. They don’t necessarily develop together.

    Look where we have been and then project where we are going. We have gone from the storytellers of the oral tradition, to cave paintings, to out of brain, memory storage devices like batons and parchment scribed by hand.

    We have gone from, scribes, to the printing press to new forms of electronic communication. Each new development in the history of communication has always further democratized the delivery of information. Nothing has really changed, except the method of delivery. And the constant change has always been constant. So What?

    Blogs might be the most effective democratized delivery of information yet devised. So? What care I, if it is not called journalism? Call it whatever you like! It is democracy at it’s finest. Each citizen has a voice and an international platform to use it, sell it, and distribute it.

    Sure my buddy Samir makes some relevant points. But it he doesn’t get to the bottom line. There is an incontrovertible shift in information distribution. The denial of it as a totally viable new platform is ridiculous. It is young, vibrant and growing. .. well, you know me I could go on for hours…. Catch the Samir and BoSacks public debate sometime.. it is a fun event.