In Defense of Print
By Kate Jenkins
Letter from the Editor, Issue 2
Over the past year, I’ve encountered a lot of people who have struggled to wrap their brains around the concept that anyone would want to start a print magazine. When people ask, “and what do you do?” my reply is probably the last thing they expect to hear.
In turn, I used to be surprised that these strangers’ reactions to my answer were so highly emotional, ranging from enthusiastic high-fives, to skeptically raised eyebrows, to mocking laughter, to incredulous eye-rolling, and even to frustrated or furious outbursts. But by now I’ve learned that people are defensive of their world-views and their perceptions of what is and is not possible; the audacity of starting a print magazine is offensive and frightening to many.
People have all kinds of opinions about what we’re doing wrong. Approximately one of three people I meet suggests that we should abandon ship and start a blog. Others may dig the print scene but believe we ought to rein it in, play it safe, publish nothing over 1,000 words.
After receiving an abundance of letters and questions on the subject from closeted publishing consultants everywhere, I realize that now is the moment for me to declare publicly, formally, why we have committed to print as our chosen medium for the important dialogue we hope to spark.
The most powerful argument that print can and should persevere through the digital age, admittedly, is emotional.
I’m always tempted to respond to the raised eyebrows with an anecdote about the first time I fell in love and spent a whole college semester running down a hill. Every weeknight that spring, I left my crappy telemarketing job at around 9 pm. My boyfriend would be cooking dinner at his apartment in anticipation of my return. I speed-walked the 20 minutes home, trying to keep a cool façade. That is, until I reached the top of the big hill overlooking the squat, drab complex; it was there that I could see him through the kitchen window, pan-frying fish. Every day, at that same spot, I broke into a desperate sprint.
The urge to create is in some way akin to the impulse that propelled me down that endless hill. We create for the same reason we fuck and fight, we squat to pee between cars and we pose nude for art’s sake and we look people in the eye and, rather than laughing things off, we say the things that make them uncomfortable. Things that are screaming true. We rarely make art because it is practical; we do it because our hearts and our minds ache to engage, to leave a mark.
Sometimes, there is no good answer to the “why” question. The Intentional is long-form because it is, because I had a magazine baby, and it was born that way. Because that is what was conceived when the world asked me how I wanted to interact with it.
I had to hope that maybe folks would learn to love my impractical magazine, in spite of the inconvenient fact that they can’t read all of it in the time it takes them to shit.
There does also seem to be a somewhat logical argument in defense in print. Whispers floating around the Internet indicate that some media people believe “indie rags,” “boutique print,” “artisanal magazines”—whatever we choose to call them—are actually on the rise, despite the general decline of print media as a whole. These publications usually share a few characteristics, which I believe to be crucial to their success.
First, they don’t tend to deal in news, current events, or anything else that expires quickly; people are going to go to the Internet for things that are time-sensitive. With this in mind, we indie rags know the value of creating a physical product that will endure through time. The Intentional adheres to this philosophy by printing on quality paper and by putting a strong emphasis on stunning design, thoughtful curation, and fascinating art. Our goal is to create something that can be thought of as many of us think of books—a keepsake, a collection of art to be displayed on coffee tables and bookshelves, rather than something that will end up in the garbage after it’s read, like People orTime. We just pray to all the gods we know of that readers find this to be a product worth their money.
And indeed there are those who know its value. While print magazines are never again going to be for everyone, there is, at least, the “slow art movement,” as it’s been coined, which represents a steady base of support for records, Polaroids, print, and all things artisanal. Presumably, a new generation is drawn to these cultural items because they force consumers to take the time and space to really connect with someone else’s work. The movement is part of a larger “DIY” thing can be seen as pushback against the digital age. Though I find much of this trendy obsession with all things retro and hand-made to be insufferably kitsch, the urge to read entire articles at once and listen to albums—if not instead of, at least in addition to Spotify playlists—is beautiful and celebrateable.
Apart from defending print as an art form and detailing the reasons why, if executed correctly, a print magazinecan succeed, I should explain why print is the correct medium for the particular conversation The Intentionalwishes to trigger. We are dedicated to a meaningful analysis of our modern lifestyles, of the realities and the changes engendered by the digital generation thus far—a daunting task, given that the mammoth, systemic cultural and social shifts are so all-encompassing that it’s nearly impossible to remember what things were like before. And while Twitter et al have been great for generating social commentary, they fail at providing the perspective needed to see significant conversation topics, news items, and societal dilemmas clearly. These are problems that cannot be definitively answered, decisions that cannot be made in 140 character shouts, and we do ourselves a great injustice by allowing them to go stale within the hour.
How can we find satisfaction as individuals? How can we best coexist? Where do we want to be going as a society? How should we get there? Though the terms might change, these questions don’t expire—not even after an entire generation. Aren’t they worth taking time and space to truly consider?
We think so. For that reason, we are not interested in making the literary equivalent of a microwaveable meal. I hope our supporters agree that print is the right way to pursue a sustained discussion with an infinite shelf life.
We do envision moving toward a more interactive website with more unique content. But the focus is—and will always remain—the enjoyment of the hard copy. The thing you are holding, right now, in your hand. Everything else simply serves to enhance that experience.
We are making a do-or-die stand for print. Yes, I’ll put it down in writing. We’re aware that someday this thing might capsize. But you can bet we’re going down with the ship.
This piece originally appeared in issue 2 of The Intentional.