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Perhaps some light at the end of the tunnel

In the summer, if you are diligently slothful, and I am that, there is enough time to read a whole magazine. In fact, last week I didn’t read one I read two.

In the summer, if you are diligently slothful, and I am that, there is enough time to read a whole magazine. In fact, last week I didn’t read one I read two. I read my regular New Yorker Magazine from cover to cover and the same for Canada’s Magazine of the Year “The Walrus”. No I don’t know why they call it “The Walrus.”

In the New Yorker I read a superb piece on the murder of an Assistant United States Attorney in Seattle and how that might be related to George Bush firing a variety of Attorney’s from the U.S. Justice Department. Elizabeth Kolbert bought some bees and presented a wonderfully researched piece on the demise of Bees in the United  States, which taught me more about the subject than I ever thought I needed to know, including the coming effect on food production. Still, with the New Yorker a delightful take on the sociology of golf at this year’s US Open and finally a long look at the history and success of spam on the Internet.

In the Walrus, an author looks at the inevitability of electronic book publishing and the coming chaos in the book world. Martin Patriquin writes on the return of Montreal Lebanese immigrants to war ravaged Lebanon, Debra Campbell writes on the massive wealth and growth of Dubai and Chris Turner writes on the impact of the hippie exodus from the United States to Canada in the late sixties and early 1970s.

Somewhere in the middle of this pleasure, as I was luxuriating in the sheer joy of stumbling upon these delicious morsels of brain food come trivia, I realized how stale and dated these simple pleasures are becoming.

No one has time for these pastimes anymore and fewer have the inclination.

People raised on gaming and Google have no patience for the leisurely ride through a magazine that runs articles from three to eight pages and presents an eclectic menu of stories that tickle the fancy of an editor trying to entertain and stimulate thought. They need action. They need instant gratification. They need an outcome, not an experience and most importantly they want the power to search for what they want to know. They aren’t that much interested in stumbling on something they don’t know they don’t know.

I’ve lived this evolution of knowledge transfer for a very long time. The Internet is the fastest growing part of my businesses. Like you, I spend a good deal of my day doing my business on the web and it is a stunning resource. It has changed everything. Yet, I have always separated my reading habits from my work regimen.

This summer is the first time I really felt the seismic shifts that are taking place in the media. I felt it because having lived through most of the year on the Internet, I was thrilled to return to the pace and texture of a well-edited magazine. While the Internet provides instant access to the world in a strange way, it doesn’t really come alive until you ask it something. It needs you to be the editor.

The core of a good newspaper or magazine is a good editor. The core of the Internet is good search.

I started my newspaper life as a reporter for the Fort William Times Journal and my business life as the editor of Northern Life (our Sudbury community newspaper).  Well, I actually started my business life as editor, investor, sales manager, production assistant, truck driver and publisher.

My favourite job was editor. I loved dreaming up our weekly smorgasbord of news and features that to me represented a fair and sometimes eccentric view of a week in the life of Sudbury. We had a lot of fun.

Many of us are moving from buying print products we trust and identify with, to signing up for really simple syndication feeds and Internet newsletters. Of course we only sign up for what we are interested in. Unlikely we would ask Google to send us all you’ve got on hippie’s, bees, golf, United States Justice Department, spam, Dubai, Lebanese immigrants to Canada and electronic book publishing. Not that I couldn’t. I just wouldn’t think of it. It was the magazine that invited me. We are diminished by our flight to reactive media habits. We shall miss our editors.

Michael Atkins
Laurentian Media Group