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McSweeney’s to Champion Print by Adopting Newspaper Format

Daily News

Online Only, posted 6.08.09

McSweeney’s founder Dave Eggers says his quarterly’s next issue intends to prove the viability of print by adopting a newspaper format. Eggers made the announcement at an Authors Guild gathering in New York City last month, where he was being feted for his charity work with the nonprofit 826 National.

According to the New Yorker, Eggers stressed that reports of the death of print culture had been greatly exaggerated. “Nothing has changed!” said the author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Simon & Schuster, 2000) during his speech. “The written word—the love of it and the power of the written word—it hasn’t changed. It’s a matter of fostering it, fertilizing it, not giving up on it, and having faith. Don’t get down.” Eggers then offered to personally motivate those inclined to despair. “If you ever have any doubt,” he continued, “e-mail me, and I will buck you up and prove to you that you’re wrong.”

Those who took Eggers up on his offer received their replies this week in the form of a mass e-mail—which likely gives some sense of the number of individuals looking to be bucked up. In his response, Eggers spoke of the centrality of print media to his nonprofit work with school-aged writers in San Francisco’s Mission District. He also reiterated plans to transform the notably protean McSweeney’s into a newspaper this fall. “The hope,” he wrote, “is that we can demonstrate that if you rework the newspaper model a bit, it can not only survive, but actually thrive. We’re convinced that the best way to ensure the future of journalism is to create a workable model where journalists are paid well for reporting here and abroad. And that starts with paying for the physical paper. And paying for the physical paper begins with creating a physical object that doesn't retreat, but instead luxuriates in the beauties of print.”

Eggers emphasized that his goal was to demonstrate how the distinctive strengths of print could ensure its continued existence alongside electronic media. “To survive,” he said, “the newspaper, and the physical book, needs to set itself apart from the web. Physical forms of the written word need to offer a clear and different experience. And if they do, we believe, they will survive. Again, this is a time to roar back and assert and celebrate the beauty of the printed page. Give people something to fight for, and they will fight for it. Give [them] something to pay for, and they’ll pay for it.”

The newspaper issue of Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern is due out in September.

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