Lamenting Print Journalism’s Decline

Many have lamented the decline of print journals. My own regrets are rather selective. I was not at all sorry to see Newsweek cancel its print edition. But I was genuinely saddened to read just a few days ago that by the end of the year Homiletic & Pastoral Review will only be available online. HPR had a prestigious history of quality religious writing that stretched back more than a century. I began contributing to the publication under the editorship of Kenneth Baker, SJ, who was in charge from 1971-2010.

Even by the late 1990s, as I recall, online journalism had killed off many of the smaller newsletters. I remember getting periodicals like The Dawson Newsletter and The Midwest Chesterton News in the mailbox. I miss them. They were inexpensive and the relatively small readership made for a cozy circle in the republic of letters. It is ironic that technology was both the making and the undoing of newsletters. Desktop publishing in the 1980s witnessed an outpouring of garage press periodicals, yet just as this technology was reaching its apogee, along came the internet which obviated postage and printing costs and, in the process, the hard-copy gazettes altogether.

Granted I’m like most people when it comes to preferring the ease and cost-effectiveness of online journalism for current events, as well as the freedom of choice. But with more thoughtful essays, that lend themselves to greater reflection and study than ephemeral news items, I’d rather cradle a bound volume with real two-sided pages in my hands. Longer pieces should be perused at leisure, perhaps in a quiet setting far away from the distractions of the computer. Needless to say, electronic books don’t interest me in the least.

It is to be hoped that some print journals will continue hold their ground. There is still City Journal, Policy Review and New Oxford Review. May they persevere!

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