Print Can Do This; Digital Can Do That. The Eternal Relationship Between Print And Digital: A Manifesto From A 1964 TV Guide Magazine… From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault.

March 5, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

As I was doing some research for my upcoming presentation at The Sixth Floor (JFK) Museum in Dallas, Texas on the power of the magazine cover, I stumbled upon an article in a January 25-31, 1964 edition of TV Guide where they devoted a major section of the magazine, including an introduction by President Lyndon B. Johnson, to the four days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Leading into that special section, the magazine editors created a wonderful one-page comparison between television and print back then and the power of each medium, noting the speed in which television could present something as tragic and moving as JFK’s funeral.

It’s amazing to me that what was true in 1964 is still true today, only using a different medium rather than television. Television in the 1960s was a powerful unification tool for the United States and the world, when 180 million people watched the funeral of President Kennedy on the then three TV networks, before the fragmentation of cable television wreaked havoc on the communal spirit of television and the United States of America. And after Cable came Satellite Television and then ultimately, the Internet, eliminating the community of television altogether.

The country moved from a melting pot, with those three television networks and the host of magazines that were out there, to what’s now more like a cafeteria style information buffet, where you can find any number of networks that will provide you information that’s not related to the country as a whole, but rather to one’s tiny areas of interest and in most cases areas that support one’s own beliefs and theories. That unifying aspect of television is no longer there.

Some may say the same thing is happening with magazines, with the degree of specializations in many current titles, but yet we continue to see the growth of magazine audiences through all of the many platforms that the brands utilize. Whether it’s the printed magazine or the continuous outreach from the brands through other social media and digital extensions, audience growth for magazines is flourishing. And as I wrote in an article a few years ago and recently republished on my blog: magazines were the original social media and they continue to be the original social media, one that creates community and permanency such as the 1964 TV Guide article referred to when talking about television.

Here are a few points from that editorial that would still hold up today, only with the Internet replacing Television’s role. You be the judge:

• Television’s greatest advantage as a news medium is responsible for its greatest disadvantage. (Substitute Television with the Internet)

• The medium’s (imagine Internet as the medium) speed cannot be beaten, for it can often tell and show its audience what is happening as it happens. There is no need to delay so that reporters can write their stories and photographers can develop their pictures. There is no need to wait so that the many editorial and mechanical tasks can be completed before presses can turn and trucks and trains and men can complete distribution – as they must for newspapers and magazines.

• Thus television (Internet) can report a story just about instantaneously. But the reporting is gone just as fast. It can be repeated by the broadcasters, but the consumer, the viewer, has nothing he can hold in his hand to reread or examine closely at his leisure. This is television’s disadvantage.

• All of us who stayed close to our sets during the tragic weekend last November became part of the drama that unfolded before our eyes. But once the weekend was over, the experience was gone. Newspapers and magazines that related the events in Dallas and Washington in special editions were, quite understandably, interested in reporting the chronology of events, and their meanings. ( Emphasis mine. Proving once again that permanence of print and its collectability aspect).

As I’ve said before, there is nothing new under the sun. What goes around comes around, just usually in a different guise. So, where the television of the “50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s unified us as a society, the television of the ‘80s, ‘90s and beyond, divided us, along with that ever-reaching, never-ending, all-consuming thing we all call the Internet. Today we are such a fragmented information society that we do not know where or what to turn to, where to actually get, as the late, great Paul Harvey would say, “The Rest of the Story.”

But it’s out there…somewhere…among the fragments.

Until the next time…

See you at the newsstands…

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