By Steve Outing
Tens of millions of people were treated to an example of print media’s slide toward irrelevance this morning. Parade magazine, which is inserted in Sunday papers across the US, offered up its cover story about Benazir Bhutto: “Is Benazir Bhuto America’s best hope against al-Qaeda?” (Only if you believe in reincarnation.)
The story, an interview by Gail Sheehy done prior to Bhutto’s death, is particularly relevant now. But it needed to be reworked to acknowledge the assassination, of course.
This sort of thing happens frequently to newspapers, when something big breaks overnight and the morning paper is outdated. A big event has taken place and most everyone already knows about it from the Internet, TV and radio — but the newspaper looks clueless due to bad timing.
But this? Bhutto was assassinated on December 27. Parade shows up in newspapers with this embarrassingly outdated story 10 DAYS later! And not even an editor’s note is inserted at the last minute explaining the situation. That’s sad. (Parade’s website, of course, does acknowledge the assassination, and explains its publishing schedule and why what people received in print is so outdated. And some newspapers ran editor’s notes along with the copy of today’s Parade — though not my local paper.)
Should I not be so harsh, since obviously Parade has a print publishing schedule that’s got lots of lead time built in? (The January 6 edition was printed December 21.) I understand that, but I don’t sympathize.
It’s now painfully obvious that Parade needs to modernize and seriously tighten up its print schedule. I’m sure that the magazine is printed well in advance because that’s the way it’s been done for decades; newspapers need it well in advance to insert it in Sunday feature sections, which are produced in advance of the Sunday news sections. Changing it probably would be arduous and expensive. But the world has changed, and Parade needs to change.
I really think that gone are the days when a publication that wants to cover news can afford the luxury of a 2-week print cycle. Parade can either stick to “evergreen” stories — like others in today’s edition: “Why Do We Forget Things?” and “Feel Secure About Your Money” — or modernize. That it purports to include news-related coverage on a 2-week publishing schedule just sets itself up to be embarrassed in an age of ubiquitous instant news.