So much has changed over time, especially as a result of the advent of social media. Nowadays, people, especially the Gen Xers and millennials, just have to receive their information in more digestible chunks and certainly instantaneously.
While, I suppose, as the saying goes, there’s no time like the present for information, especially the weather, that type of instant access and informational gratification has certainly not befriended print media, which, once upon a time, was the go-to source for the stories and opinions that mattered to the public.
Those who still value the printed word, not on a Kindle screen, mind you, but on an actual printed page, were again sadly reminded of that a while back when the eighth-largest newspaper in Ohio by circulation and also one of the oldest dailies, the Youngstown Vindicator, rolled off the press for the last time under family ownership, in this case, the Brown family, on Aug. 31, a century and a half after the newspaper printed its first edition.
The paper was the victim of the same sort of financial hardship that has afflicted many newspapers. And, although the masthead and website domain name were purchased, and there will continue to be a newspaper that will serve the Mahoning Valley under a distant media umbrella, there were the inevitable staff cuts and loss of regional empathetic connections, by-products whenever a family business can no longer sustain the operation.
As for the close cousin of the daily newspaper, magazines, that for years published either weekly or monthly have either altered their publishing cycles or suspended operations altogether.
While you really can’t blame social media for the demise of some publications that were commonly seen on coffee tables like Look, the fortnightly publication that drew its final breaths in 1971 after its 34-year run, there are other publications that were forced to go the digital-only route to survive the instant news of the internet and social media, such as Jet and Money.
Others, such as, one so very near and dear to my baseball-loving heart, Sporting News, went through diminishing publication phases. Established in 1886, the publication that became known as The Baseball Bible ceased being a weekly in 2008, went fortnightly until 2011 and then went monthly until 2012 before finally ceasing any print issues at all. Now, it’s only in digital format and nothing at all like the tabloid format of my youth that once included a veritable trove of baseball’s weekly happenings both in the Major Leagues and minors.
Another of my absolute go-to’s since my age could be given using a single digit, Sports Illustrated, recently went from a weekly to a fortnightly publication in 2018.
As proof of the tenuous hold that print magazines have when it comes to staying in the information-entertainment business, I routinely receive enticements in the mail for subscriptions for all sorts of magazines as low as $20 for an entire year’s worth, and sometimes even less.
The most recent example of a magazine with an age-old connection with American readers willing to cut its subscription rate to an almost donation-only $10 for a year’s worth of monthly magazines is Reader’s Digest, which first published in 1922. For an additional $5, I could have added a second year!
The mailing I received even gave me the September issue of what was once advertised as “America’s favorite magazine.” The cover was just as I remembered it when my mom used to place her copy beside her familiar chair in the living room in that Latham Avenue ranch in my growing-up 1960s, and as I perused the pages and read here and there, I noticed the format hadn’t changed from what I remember. There were inspirational stories, none exceedingly long, some feature pieces and also several amusements at the bottoms of the pages, such as Virginia Osterman’s contribution, “If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen are defrocked, doesn’t it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, and cowboys deranged?”
While such pricing as $15 for two years’ worth of monthly publications are certainly easy on what used to be called our pocketbooks, I’m not sure those falling subscription rates bode well for the long-term health of the publications.
If there would ever come a day when there were only digital versions of our newspapers and magazines, for those of us who love the feel and smell of the printed word, it will be a sad day indeed.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.