You Can Read It in the Bathtub


Dave Eggers, McSweeney's founder and Panorama's mastermind, wanted to prove that print is not dead.

On the morning of Dec. 8, several dozen volunteer newsies spread out across San Francisco to hawk copies of the city's brand new newspaper, the San Francisco Panorama. The 320-page doorstop, printed in full color on old-fashioned broadsheet paper, sold for $5 on the street and $16 in bookstores. With articles by Stephen King, Michael Chabon and Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Robert Porterfield, the Panorama was an homage to the increasingly threatened — some would say obsolete — institution of print journalism. The paper's entire print run sold out in less than 90 minutes. More from


Right in the FAQ for the Panorama it says this is a one time deal. Effectively they made a custom book. To compare this to a printed newspaper and try to say that somehow print journalism is going gangbusters is wrong.

The Time story says print isn't dead. The rapid sellout pretty much demonstrates that to be true. Nowhere in the Time story, nowhere in the SF Chronicle's ads for the SF Panorama (it was a partner), did it ever say "See? This proves that print newspapers aren't in trouble."

What Panorama does demonstrate is that the broadsheet newspaper can be an extremely effective medium. They did not, not, not make a "custom book." They made a medium-run one-off newspaper.

I don't believe all print newspapers are "dying"--at least not in the short term--but that's really an entirely separate argument.

People love to hate novelist Dave Eggers. Though often described as "arrogant" and frequently mocked by Gawker, the 39-year-old San Francisco writer's sins are not always clear. His resume is evidently bursting with good works. Eggers's two most recent books explored humanitarian crises in New Orleans and Sudan. (He donated a share of the books' profits to relief efforts.) He also runs a small publishing house, a literary journal (McSweeney's), and a charity that works to teach writing and literacy to urban children. He counts President Obama among his readers. This may sound like sainthood, but in the gossipy and often jealousy-ridden world of high literature, his successes (which gained him a screenwriting gig for this year's "Where The Wild Things Are" adaptation) make him a prime target.

Most recently, Eggers and McSweeney's have produced a one-off newspaper they're calling the San Francisco Panorama. The 320-page broadsheet hired big names like Stephen King as well as local laid-off reporters to construct an elegant rethinking of the modern newspaper, from the front page to the book review pull-out. The project's publisher says he wants to create an homage to newspapers and hopes to provide the ailing industry with ideas on how to reinvent themselves for print survival in the 21st century. Will Dave Eggers save journalism? Probably not. But his effort had handed critics an opportunity to restate their case.

Full piece here

Walt when you say "Not that Time or McSweeney's said anything of the sort" I assume you had not seen this.

Here is what Eggers said about this Sweeneys newspaper project:

.....if you are ever feeling down, if you are ever despairing, if you ever think publishing is dying or print is dying or books are dying or newspapers are dying (the next issue of McSweeney’s will be a newspaper—we’re going to prove that it can make it. It comes out in September).

...there's a HUGE gap between "newspapers are dying" and "newspapers are going gangbusters." The print newspaper field is being redefined, absolutely, and these aren't great times--but, in fact, most truly local newspapers are doing OK.

So, while I hadn't seen that statement, I'll stand behind mine: Eggers said nothing of the sort. If you don't believe there's a difference between "the print newspaper as a medium is not dying anytime soon" (which is how I'd interpret Eggers) and "newspapers are going gangbusters," then there's little to discuss.

The gangbusters comment was about the Sweeney's paper selling out in a day. My argument is that just because this custom "one off" newspaper that took months to complete and is full of articles by celebrity authors was able to sell out in a day that does not real say anything about the market for printed newspapers.

>They did not, not, not make a "custom book."

Ummm, yes they did:
McSweeney's, No. 33: The San Francisco Panorama -- Hardcover book

But the 32,000-copy newspaper was not a custom book, and calling it that is silly. So, for that matter, is this whole discussion, since:

A. You're right that the Panorama does not in and of itself say much about the present or future health of newspapers.

B. If you're prone to "X is dying/X is dead" statements, there's not much I can do to dissuade you.

>X is dying/X is dead

I would not say newspapers are dead but the print newspaper is severely declining. Whether the decline is severe enough to be called "dying" is open to interpretation. Several major newspapers have folded in the last year (Eg: Denver and Seattle) seems to be a dying trend to me.