Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Bulletin's Slow Decline

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has been a sane voice for nuclear disarmament, rational national-security policy, and multilateral security missions for more than 60 years. It's the home of the famous "Doomsday Clock," indicating the number of minutes the human race has until the dreaded midnight.

Unfortunately, public-policy publications face the same kind of problem as the daily press and the business media - no advertising, declining print readership, and a difficult transition from print to web. Through most of this decade, The Bulletin did a good job of balancing web and print, providing useful content geared to both environments.

The magazine's print edition took an unannounced hiatus in Jan/Feb of 2008, and when it came back, the redesigned print edition was, to put it bluntly, overpriced and tedious. It looks as though the editorial board decided to put all good content and interesting graphics online, while preserving an archived bimonthly print edition for dumping gray-space essays with few pictures and lots of turgid prose. This might be the way a lot of publishing companies get rid of printed editions - not with a bang, but with a whimper, making the remaining archived print editions a dumping ground for items not wanted online. Maybe it's a necessary step in the demise of print, and will lead to a future that is safer for trees. But it's sad to see a great public resource like the Bulletin be squeezed out of relevance by the pressures of financial underwriting of print, and the ubiquitous march of all useful content to the web.


John G said...

Hopefully it's not a choice between trees and books/magazines, I like holding a book.

Ruth said...

We were just talking about holding books yesterday, and we agree, we hope they will never end. I for one have a hard time reading anything long on the Internet. Even a 3 page article is tedious for me. I won't give up my New Yorker subscription even though I can read most pieces online. Too bad about the Bulletin.