The Atlantic Redesign Featuring…Bloggers!

We mentioned last week that our favorite online magazine, the 150 year-old Atlantic, had re-branded and re-designed itself. At the launch party the other night at the Exit art gallery on the west side of Manhattan (which included an art installation of “provocative” questions like: Why do presidents lie?) we managed to get our hands on the new print issue. And it looks good, though the new cover does overwhelm a bit with information.

What was equally interesting to note was the lineup of writers they had chosen to feature in their newly designed issue. Not surprisingly the first name that caught our eye was Andrew Sullivan who writes a feature piece titled “Why I Blog” (more on that later), but along with Sullivan we noted James Fallows and Jeffrey Goldberg both of whom are part of The Atlantic‘s stellar lineup of bloggers. Does this signify some sort of sea change to come? As in, perhaps we’ve reaching some tipping point where in order for a print magazine to be relevant it has to plumb the big names of the online world. We will see. In the meantime, after the jump, why Andrew Sullivan blogs…the print version.

I’d previously written online as well, contributing to a listserv for gay writers and helping Kinsley initiate a more discursive form of online writing for Slate, the first magazine published exclusively on the Web. As soon as I began writing this way, I realized that the online form rewarded a colloquial, unfinished tone. In one of my early Kinsley-guided experiments, he urged me not to think too hard before writing. So I wrote as I’d write an e-mail — with only a mite more circumspection. This is hazardous, of course, as anyone who has ever clicked Send in a fit of anger or hurt will testify. But blogging requires an embrace of such hazards, a willingness to fall off the trapeze rather than fail to make the leap.

From the first few days of using the form, I was hooked. The simple experience of being able to directly broadcast my own words to readers was an exhilarating literary liberation. Unlike the current generation of writers, who have only ever blogged, I knew firsthand what the alternative meant. I’d edited a weekly print magazine, The New Republic, for five years, and written countless columns and essays for a variety of traditional outlets. And in all this, I’d often chafed, as most writers do, at the endless delays, revisions, office politics, editorial fights, and last-minute cuts for space that dead-tree publishing entails. Blogging — even to an audience of a few hundred in the early days — was intoxicatingly free in comparison. Like taking a narcotic.

It was obvious from the start that it was revolutionary. Every writer since the printing press has longed for a means to publish himself and reach — instantly — any reader on Earth. Every professional writer has paid some dues waiting for an editor’s nod, or enduring a publisher’s incompetence, or being ground to literary dust by a legion of fact-checkers and copy editors. If you added up the time a writer once had to spend finding an outlet, impressing editors, sucking up to proprietors, and proofreading edits, you’d find another lifetime buried in the interstices. But with one click of the Publish Now button, all these troubles evaporated.