ONE MAN’S VIEW: Slate Group editor-in-chief Jacob Weisberg met with a group of Columbia Journalism School students on Thursday night to speak about what he described as a “crisis of the fourth branch.” Weisberg spoke on a variety of topics, including how magazines apps are a disaster, how print will soon be finished and how fact checkers are a waste of an expense.
Here’s some of what Weisberg had to say: On Apps: “In general I’m not a big believer in apps. You give up so much of the functionality you expect on the Web. You don’t have hyperlinks, commenting….Magazines are clinging to apps like they’re some kind of life-raft, which they’re not. They allow them to claim higher readership. I think they’re terrible user experiences.”
On print publications: “I do think it will be over. And I do think it’s sort of a speculative question. In 50 years we won’t be carrying around keys. Possibly in five years we won’t be. “It’s not that print will become extinct. Will many people be getting much information from reading books or magazines? They won’t be in 20 years.”
On a Journalism talent suck: “It’s becoming more like the Peace Corps or Teach for America model. Young people go into it for a while, but you want to be out of it by middle age.”
On harsh reality: “Newspapers and magazines have a lot farther to fall. Advertising numbers are going to go down, down, down. It’s going to go to the Web. More dramatically, it’s going to go to mobile. People are already consuming 10 percent of information on mobile.”
On eliminating quotes, fact-checkers: “We hate quotations at Slate. We almost never use quotes. They don’t do anything. They waste the readers’ time. Only use quotes when you can’t say it better yourself.
“I’m against fact-checking because I think it encourages error. The items I’ve made mistakes in are when I’ve been fact-checked. Journalists have to be responsible for themselves. The Web has made the cost of error so high.
“Having been fact-checked by The New Yorker fact-checking department, it’s a lovable relic. I don’t want to see it destroyed any more than I would wish to purge the card catalogue from the library. But I don’t know that it’s the most cost-effective way to solve the problem.”