Reports of the death of the newspaper are greatly exaggerated. Long live the newspaper. So says bestselling author Dave Eggers, who with a small editorial team, published Panorama, a 320-page newspaper that sold out its 20,000 print-run in December.
The prolific publisher discussed the newspaper business as a guest of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism at Sibley Auditorium last night. Another 20,000 copies of Panorama have been printed and they were moving like, well, hot cakes after his slide show and chat.
Eggers, who co-founded the young writers program and cool pirate paraphernalia storefront 826 Valencia in San Francisco, knew how to reach the audience of mostly students. Some 108 million people read a paper every day in the U.S., he told them. How many watched last Sunday’s Super Bowl? Just 106 million. “So suck it, Super Bowl,” he joked.
Joining Eggers on the podium were his McSweeney’s colleagues (and former San Francisco Chronicle editors) Oscar Villalon and Jesse Nathan, as well as J-School faculty member Deirdre English.
The Panorama team’s advice on how to make newspapers a viable option in the online age:
- Bigger is better: Think broadsheet, like many papers sold around the globe.
- Update design to reach a younger crowd.
- Bring back old ideas: Cool color comics. Pull-outs and posters. Humor. Long articles that don’t jump. A robust book review section. Investigative reporting.
- Pursue a small-business model and maintain independence.
- Don’t give content away for free.
Panorama is a prototype meant to inspire others to start newspapers in their own communities. “We wanted to resurrect the best parts of this beautiful form and pay homage to an old craft that’s in danger of being steamrolled out of our lives,” says Eggers, who has no plans himself of becoming a regular newspaper publisher, citing a lack of resources and the demands of family life.
But the Bay Area is ripe for such an undertaking and stocked with talent to make it a success, he believes. And there is demand: One of the “newsies” distributing Panorama in Berkeley last year didn’t even make it to his corner before he had to call for more copies. He sold out almost as soon as he got out of his car.
An old-school kinda guy, Eggers confesses to finding reading on the Internet stressful. ‘My heart beats faster, there are so many distractions. I know I’m one-click away from cat porn.”
His is a minority view in this digital era where another newspaper seems to bite the dust every week. Yesterday, The Berkeley Daily Planet, the weekly advocacy paper, announced it will stop print publication at the end of this month and move to providing only online coverage.
What say you, people? Is dead-tree journalism, ah, dead?
Berkeleyside contributor and Berkeley resident Sarah Henry is the author of food blog Lettuce Eat Kale.