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McSweeney's looks to save print; 320 page newspaper results

McSweeney's looks to save print; 320 page newspaper results

The San Francisco Panorama, also known as the the 33rd edition of McSweeney's Quarterly, was released yesterday. The 320 pages of full color comes complete with investigative reporting, comics, a book section, posters, and a 16$ price tag.

According to media wonderchild and McSweeney's editor Dave Eggers, the quarterly chose to make a newspaper from scratch for its newest issue to "demonstrate the many things that newspapers can do uniquely well, and how necessary they are to a thriving democracy."

McSweeney's collaborated with over 150 freelance writers, designers, and artists. The Panorama includes contributions by Stephen King, Miranda July, Junot Diaz, Chimamanda Adichie, and Art Spiegelman.
The main story of the publication is a 15 000 word story on the earthquake retrofitting and partial reconstruction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which has been plagued by building accidents and skyrocketing costs. Eggers felt that an investigation was necessary to keep the public informed.

The story is a collaboration between McSweeney's, San Francisco Public Press, Spot.Us, and the San Francisco Chronicle. The inspiration, partial funding, and actual publishing space for the story were provided by McSweeney's; additional funding was raised by Spot.us, a non-profit, San Francisco-based crowdsourcing website that raises donations from the public to fund news stories. There were donations made to the story through the site by 140 people. SF Public Press recruited and managed the journalists who produced the story, and the Chronicle is selling and distributing copies as the exclusive Bay Area partner.

Ward Bushee, editor and executive vice president of the Chronicle, said of the partnership,

"The Panorama may be the biggest, most creative and famously bylined edition of a newspaper ever printed. It reflects McSweeney's devotion to newspapers. We are delighted to exclusively be a part of it."

In an interview with the BayNewser, Oscar Villalon, the publisher of McSweeney's and a former book editor at the Chronicle, discussed the finer points of the publication. He believes

the publication to be a good model for publishers to mull over for future editions. The Panorama, he stressed, is not trying to introduce a new set of rules to follow, but rather, to accentuate the strengths that newsprint has over the Internet.

"There are cool things you can do there that you can't do on the Internet because of the medium, like posters, giant comics, really cool huge double-truck graphics that you can pore over at your leisure--things that newspapers still have the resources to do," Villalon explained.

He further emphasized the importance of the printed aspect of news. "The Internet is great for breaking news--so is radio and TV. Newspapers have known that for decades. We've always been playing catch-up. We're always providing follow up the next day--analysis, insight, and expertise that the immediate reporting wasn't going to fill in," Villalon said. "So one of the things we did in the Panorama was give a lot of space to writers to write in depth about certain things. That's a strength still for newspapers. It's hard to read 10,000 words on the Internet. Your eyes are just going to get tired."

Regarding the logistics of the paper- it took five months to put together the 320 pages- he described it as a feasible inspiration for a Sunday edition. His justification for the lengthy

process was that they "were basically reinventing the wheel. We started a newspaper from scratch. If we had the resources of a big or mid-size regional newspaper or a large city daily, our costs and the time it took to do this would have shrunk dramatically."

Thus, an established newspaper would have the ability, according to Villalon, to "produce many of those types of sections on a regular basis."

Eggers and company may not have single-handedly saved the newspaper industry with this one-time only edition, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. The plethora of graphics and good, ol' fashioned journalism mix to create a visually and mentally stimulating smorgasbord of information. One that many publications would do well to emulate.

The special "21st-century newspaper prototype," as the website calls it, will be sent to all current McSweeney's subscribers. You will also be able to buy it in bookstores all over America as well through the McSweeney's online store.

Sources: Editor & Publisher, BayNewser



Betsey Reinsborough


2009-12-09 18:04

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