This week students at OISE Cambridge are designing a magazine for their presentation project.
I suggested in Tuesday’s post that large numbers of people no longer read newspapers as newspapers – rather they assemble their online news from a variety of sources and skim the surface of their ever-varying collection by headline and image. The newspaper as an experience (universal coverage of news, culture, sport etc., united by a common editorial approach) is unlikely to continue as such.
The magazine, however, might be more resilient. The word originally meant (and still occasionally means) a storehouse – you would keep goods of one sort or another in a magazine, for example. Thus a magazine is by definition an organised assembly of various items of interest.
This was certainly the understanding of Edward Cave (1691-1754), who assembled and printed the first magazine to be called a magazine – The Gentleman’s Magazine, which dates from 1731.
Cave, who edited his publication under the pen name Sylvanus Urban, stated that it should contain articles on any subject an educated readership might be interested in, from commerce to poetry, and for nearly 200 years it did just that.
In truth, of course, there is a fine and blurry line between newspapers and magazines; both can be described as periodicals, and perhaps the only difference is their periodicity – in other words, the frequency with which they appear. National newspapers appear in print daily (and used to appear in several editions per day); local newspapers perhaps weekly; magazines typically weekly, monthly or quarterly.
This suggests, if nothing else, that as print phenomena magazines have the luxury of time, and newspapers do not. It might be the only difference – and one virtually eradicated by the need for an online presence – but since the internet is awash with news, opinion, and ephemera subject to no deadline, perhaps in its very nature it is already a vast magazine, or universal storehouse.