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Does Newsweek’s final publication signal a change in the literary consumer?

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Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:43 pm, Sun Dec 16, 2012.

It’s the end of an era for Newsweek. The magazine will run its last print edition Dec. 31. After Newsweek’s merger with online publication The Daily Beast, they both now make up the creatively named The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, having merged in November 2010.

Changes to Newsweek’s business plan, not to mention its coverage, may foreshadow this new age of professional journalism of which professionals and professors are equally speculative. This puts a distinctive point on the media timeline this era of on-line reporting and digital technology. And we may see the results of Newsweek’s absence as soon as next semester.

Magazine readers are turning to online subscriptions, and half of America now own either a tablet or a smartphone. Many own both. “Get Newsweek on your iPad,” the bottom of each online article boasts.

This saddens me. As much as I love the ease of an online search, there is something so tangible — literally — about magazine writing that’s printed in a physical magazine. But beyond mere portability, the style in which articles and columns are crafted in magazines is unique; taking important national and global news stories, breaking them down in a way that would be interesting and approachable, especially to those who wouldn’t pick up a newspaper or tune into an evening broadcast. The magazine industry has, for those well-established publications, defied the apocalyptic prediction of all that is print will fail. The 21st century has all but spared the newspaper.

Does Newsweek’s final publication signal a change in the literary consumer? Maybe. There are hopeful reporters like myself who truly believe that print will never die. It is a mantra held by many journalism schools and news editors alike that, no matter the medium, the content would remain. But what if in the next few months, steps are taken online that will change magazine writing itself, online or on the printed page?

Editor-in-chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast Tina Brown described the development as a “marriage between Newsweek’s journalistic depth and the vibrant versatility The Daily Beast has realized on the Web.” But Newsweek and The Daily Beast are still in the honeymoon stage, which may explain why Newsweek is willing to drop everything print, swept off its nonexistent feet to start a new life exclusively online. Let’s hope those two can keep the romance alive.

Renée is a senior in Media. She can be reached at wunderl1@dailyillini.com.

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