I used to be The Magazine Medic. Maybe you’ll remember. Or not.
For six years—first at another trade magazine, then for the print edition of Folio:—I wrote a column under the Mag Medic header. It gave me an opportunity to palpate sick and underperforming magazines, slap them around (tenderly) for their editorial malfeasance, and of course offer my prescription for a path to robust health.
The conceit was a little presumptuous. I always knew that. But I’ve spent an entire career creating, editing, fixing, and slobbering over magazines, so give me a break for feeling, ya know, somewhat entitled. All I’ve ever wanted to do is make magazines, and to make them great. (And yes, I realize that constitutes a pathetically modest life’s ambition.)
It was a damn nice thing, I must say, when editors—many of whom I’d called out for wasted opportunities—responded with gracious notes and urged me, as the Medic, to watch for changes as they rolled out. The column was fun to write, and it may even have done some good.
Now we’ve reached a point where many of the truly dreadful magazines have croaked. Sad, but good riddance. The stronger books survived the battering recession; some refocused and got lots better.
One result: As we closed out 2014, the Magazine Medic’s work was essentially done, and thus he—I—voluntarily retired.
Beginning today, if you will indulge me, comes something new and different: The Modern Magazinist. A blog. Here I’ll take up whatever seems timely or important or interesting about magazines.
To me, and I hope to you, exceptional magazines are things of enduring beauty, like museum pieces. They are an admixture of art and craft and enterprise and ardor and intelligence and scents and sensations and humor and found objects. Did I mention beauty?
Here’s the part that sucks: I know hardly anyone outside the industry who craves the print-magazine “experience” anymore. That’s tragic, but it’s true, dammit.
Magazine makers—and, more to the point, print magazine readers—are a relatively small but stubborn bunch. Worse, our numbers are almost sure to diminish over time.
I reiterate: dammit.
In my idealized world, we should be chattering about the pains and the joys of producing magazines, discussing common issues, celebrating outstanding work, bellyaching about terrible/awful/WTF decisions—in sum, reveling in these smart, astonishing, underappreciated confections from genius humans and their teams.
We will try, modestly, to do all that here.
Next week I’ll begin the conversation with a paean to Esquire and its longtime editor-in-chief, David Granger.
I hope you’ll follow along and maybe share your thoughts with The Modern Magazinist. Those of us who still obsess over the magic of magazines need to stick together.