An Interview with Emily Bobrow

Tmntalks-Bobrow-1 Speaking of More Intelligent Life, an interview with the editor in The Morning News:

TMN: What’s it like to edit the online version of a magazine as opposed to the print product, in terms of behind-the-scenes?

EB: The cycle of editing a print product is distinct: slow beginnings, procrastination-friendly middles, bursts of pre-deadline activity, followed by a satisfying catharsis. Wash, rinse, repeat. Online, things are a bit different. The grind is daily and less rigid. We have a new story up on the site every day and an active blog; writers submit their work, which I then turn around, add graphics, and publish on the site (with help from an assistant editor and a contributing editor in New York). The effect is more like a churn—there are always more pieces than time. Catharsis is elusive.

I recently edited The Economist’s Books and Arts section for a couple of weeks, and I was surprised by how different it felt. The experience was much more collaborative, less isolated. Publication plans are announced at a big meeting; editing is compressed into a couple of days (with notes and feedback from the editor-in-chief); pages are created with help from people in graphics and art direction; stories are cut for space; and then—bam!—a physical product is born into the world. After years of online editing, the work of making pages was disconcertingly satisfying. What a pity no one wants to pay for print anymore.

TMN: Is the condition of print media as dire as everyone says?

EB: Of course it is. When was the last time you bought a newspaper? What was the last magazine subscription you shelled out for? We know information is valuable, and some of the hardest to acquire (war coverage, investigative studies) is also the most expensive to pay for. We learned in the last year that print advertising is too vulnerable to comfortably cover such costs. What we haven’t learned yet is just how publishers plan to pay for print journalism going forward, now that we all feel entitled to have our news instantaneously and for free.