Editor's Note May/June 2015: To Be Continued
Monday, May 4, 2015
By Sam Hurwitt
|Editor-in-chief Sam Hurwitt.
Well, it’s finally happened. This will be the final print issue of Theatre Bay Area magazine, the publication that launched Theatre Bay Area as an organization in January 1976. Back then it was just six mimeographed pages called Bay Area Theatre Communication Center Newsletter. By that May, the newsletter had adopted the catchier title Callboard that the magazine kept through 2003, many format changes later.
When Theatre Bay Area embarked on its current strategic planning process, the question we asked was, if Theatre Bay Area didn’t exist, and the Bay Area theatre community came together today to create a service organization, what would it do? If that’s the question you’re asking, odds are a print magazine isn’t going to be high on that list.
It’s the end of an era, but it’s certainly not the end of our journalism, which will continue on our website, theatrebayarea.org—and lots of it. For a long time now we’ve been publishing many articles online that don’t appear in the magazine. Online we cover breaking news (we scooped everyone on Carole Shorenstein Hays leaving SHN, for instance). You can find exclusive articles on the craft of theatre, pro tips, artists in conversation and much more. In fact, we’ll have much more journalism online in the future, because we’ll have more resources to devote to those articles without the laborious process of preparing the print magazine. As for our listings, such as auditions, jobs and What’s Playing—those are much more up to date and plentiful online than in print.
I’m not going to pretend that it’s going to be the same as the magazine. Obviously that’s not the case. All our journalism will continue to be there, but the reading experience is totally different.
People talk about the death of print like it’s a fait accompli. They say you never see anyone reading a book or a magazine or a newspaper anymore; they’re all huddled over smartphones. That’s hyperbole, of course. I still see people reading books and magazines on BART, but it’s certainly true that they’re increasingly outnumbered.
I have an electronic device or two, but mostly I’m the guy walking around reading a magazine. (And yes, often while actually walking down the street, which isn’t the safest thing in the world—but at least it’s safer than in high school when I used to read textbooks while riding my bicycle.)
I love reading something cover to cover. Not that I always read every single article in every single magazine, but if I skip an article I’ve made a conscious choice to do so, usually after reading the first few paragraphs. That’s the opposite of the online experience, where you make a conscious choice to click on any given article, which makes it less likely that you’ll get sucked into a story about something in which you had no preexisting interest. A properly designed news site can replace that sense of serendipity by pointing you to selected articles you may also like; the trick is to keep broadening your horizons by not being catered to too much.
Fifteen years ago, when I was arts editor at the East Bay Express (which is still around in newsprint), I wrote an article about my favorite record albums of all time. In it I described how CDs had fundamentally altered the experience of an album. Not only was it less common to listen to albums at all (rather than skipping to a particular track or listening on shuffle), but all the great albums of yore didn’t just have an overall arc—they had two arcs, one for each side. On Abbey Road, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” isn’t intended to segue into “Here Comes the Sun”; the former goes on and on until it runs out of space on the first side, and the latter is the start of a whole new day on side two. Now, of course, mp3s and streaming make listening to albums an even rarer experience. (And yet vinyl LPs are making a comeback while CDs are in decline.)
There still are and still will be print magazines out there, but Theatre Bay Area is casting aside its paper trappings to become nimbler, timelier and more flexible in incorporeal form. Our print magazine is passing away, but its ghost is in the machine and only becoming more powerful. People talk about the death of print like they talk about the death of theatre—killed by movies, by TV, by the internet—and theatre’s still around. And we’re going to go right on covering the Bay Area theatre community and the issues facing it, now exclusively on the web, and then on whatever comes after that.
Sam Hurwitt is editor-in-chief for Theatre Bay Area. He is also the author of The Idiolect, a blog about theatre, movies, comics, media and the decline and fall of Western civilization. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.