I am an incurable internet addict, but I will always love print magazines. I love the way the ink smells on the paper when the boxes first arrive from the printer. I love how different a printed photograph looks compared to the lower-resolution version available on a screen. I love knowing that if I start at the front cover and page all the way through to the back, I won’t overlook a single story. The content of print magazines gets filed away in my brain in a completely different way than online publications do—if I suddenly remember a funny class note from the 1970s, I’m much more apt to track down the quote from the print copy of the magazine than by searching online.
I say this even though, ironically, this letter will appear only online, though it accompanies the first print edition of Knox Magazine since summer 2019—we ran out of pages, you see.
Since the start of the pandemic last year, there’s been a lot of talk among people who make alumni magazines over the ongoing viability of print publications. For one thing, they’re expensive—the cost of professional writers, photographers, designers, and proofreaders is negligible compared to the cost of printing out 18,000 copies of an 80-page magazine. For another, the pandemic has demonstrated over and over again that the news cycle often moves too fast for a semiannual print publication to keep up. Although our magazine team developed this issue in record time (less than three full months from content outline to printer), anything we wrote that related to COVID-19, from Commencement plans to what student-athletes were doing while competition was postponed, had to be revised a minimum of three times.
I wouldn’t dare try to predict what the future holds for Knox Magazine—with a new president joining the College on July 1 and the ongoing financial strain caused by the pandemic, along with the much anticipated hiring of additional magazine staff, it seems equally likely that we could decide to publish more issues per year or publish fewer.
I do feel, however, that the pandemic has reminded us what stories are the best fit for the work we do here—in-depth alumni interviews, conversations with faculty and students trying to solve complex problems, and closer looks at how the College is changing in tandem with each new generation of students, from its facilities to its academic programs to its institutional priorities. I promise you we’ll keep publishing those stories, in print, online, or both.
In the meantime, I hope you take a moment to smell the pages of your newly printed magazine once it arrives, and I hope you’ll share your own feelings about the place of print publications in your life by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. (If you’re reading this, after all, I know you’re already online.)