Thursday, July 26, 2012

Another one bites the dust.

Yesterday I (and other contributors/subscribers) received the following email from Jeff Reich, editor of the venerable magazine for and about writing, The Writer:

I' m sorry to announce that The Writer magazine will go on hiatus after the October 2012 issue, which is in production now. Kalmbach Publishing Co., which owns The Writer, is currently looking for a buyer for the magazine, and our hope is that The Writer will re-emerge under the careful stewardship of a new owner.
We deeply appreciate the fine work of all our contributors over the years, writers and illustrators who have helped us maintain the high editorial standards first set by founders William H. Hills and Robert Luce in 1887 and continued for so many years by Sylvia and A.S. Burack.
I wrote several pieces for The Writer, worked very hard on each of them and was proud of the end result. Yeah, they were primarily how-to pieces, but I tried to pay homage to the realm in writing them, and feedback from readers (who were themselves mostly writers) suggested that I succeeded. So to me, this is a sad event indeed...but really just another in a long string of such mile markers along a very sad road leading to an inevitable destination: the demise of serious serial writing. By "serial writing" I mean regularly published magazines, journals and like venues that once showcased writing that sought to make people think, writing that used words to convey more than just pragmatic/tactical know-how, writing that, by its nature, showed an appreciation of the sound and rhythm of language; writing that honored the quaint notion that a quality written work is more than just the sum of its parts.*

I intend no haughtiness in saying any of that, and I certainly don't intend to convey the idea that I alone, Steve Salerno, regard myself as the embodiment or anointed representative of such writing. I'm just making an observation.We live in an era when everyone who goes into WordPress and launches a blog sees him- or herself as a writer, an era when the word writer itself has been so devalued as to mean nothing more than "one who taps words into a computer." (The Facebook Literati.) Writing consists merely of "whatever one writes." So it is that every month in America, millions of words are disgorged into hundreds of magazines and other niche publications that appear on newsstands, yet I submit that just a fractional percentage point of all that disgorgement constitutes "writing." No. It is simply information. How to have more-defined abs, who's sleeping with whom in Hollywood this month, why the Fed needs to do a better job of policing credit markets, the best and worst ways to put together your resume. There's a difference between that and writing, folks. (And I blame SHAMland's all-pervading influence for that, too!) Alas, precious few consumers care or even notice. And if there is little cultural or even professional reverence for craft, there is little ongoing need for magazines that cover and/or teach craftsmanship. Hence, the demise of magazines like The Writer.

Since 1887. Wow. RIP, if this is really the end of the line.

* Fortunately there are still books that observe such principles, but even they're few and far between. I considered adding the word jacket to the end of the title of this post, but...that would be clever without really making sense.   ;)

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