Are magazines dying? The Atlantic looks ahead
Commentary: Editor James Bennet refuses to be trapped by the past
By Jon Friedman, MarketWatch – Jun 12, 2009, 12:01 a.m. EST
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — To James Bennet, editor of The Atlantic, it must seem like he’s surrounded by a sense of the past everywhere he looks.
Bennet edits a magazine so steeped in history that it was founded in 1857, and five years later, it published Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” If that wasn’t enough of a reminder of a legacy, The Atlantic has its headquarters in the infamous Watergate complex – a stone’s throw from the origin of the nation’s most notorious political scandal, as well as its greatest journalistic triumph.
Shrugging off the burden of history, Bennet gave me his explanation for the mission of his well-regarded magazine and Web site: “We’re not running a museum here,” he said.James Bennet.
“We’ve got to experiment with everything. We can’t be playing defense all the time. Yes, we have a great tradition and a wonderful legacy to defend. But if all we think about is doing that, we’re going to get killed. I stress that we have to experiment with all the different technical platforms.”
Aided by such trusted deputies as Bob Cohn and Scott Stossel, Bennet stands as one of the best magazine editors around because he embraces the digital revolution – rather than shrinks from the industry-transforming changes brought by the Internet.
Bennet, 43, has a challenging job: preserving the legacy of The Atlantic’s long-form journalism while safeguarding its future. He understands the pitfalls of editors who have refused to acknowledge the all-encompassing influence of the Web.
“We put out a good product in print and on the Web,” Bennet said. “We absolutely believe that print continues to have a very important role. There is still an experience to reading a magazine that the online world can’t replicate.“
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“Print continues to have a very important role”– magazines not dead!