Why a print magazine still matters even in 2019’s digital frenzy

I’ll never forget the first time I saw The Journal. Ten years ago this May, I was sitting in my living room sorting through materials from the Kansas Leadership Center.

The young organization had just published the first edition of this magazine. I picked it up and started thumbing through it. It looked great. I’d never seen anything quite like it.

I turned inside and read President and CEO Ed O’Malley’s article outlining the four competencies of leadership. This organization’s ideas felt different, too, and definitely worth exploring. I didn’t imagine then that I’d someday be the managing editor, overseeing a team of 20-plus contributors, as The Journal publishes its 30th edition.

A lot has changed since I turned that first page. The Journal initially allowed researchers and writers to share accessible, thought-provoking scholarship. Now it’s an award-winning vehicle for civic journalism about Kansas. The publication’s latest milestone on that journey occurred last month when judges awarded The Journal the 2018 William Allen White Foundation Burton W. Marvin Kansas News Enterprise Award.

Then, a few weeks later, the publication won a national Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for public service in magazine journalism with local or regional circulations.

The honors recognize The Journal’s coverage last year of the challenges facing the Ogallala aquifer, a lifeblood of agriculture in western Kansas. The goal of such coverage is to help readers better understand the kind of leadership necessary on society’s most daunting challenges.

Today The Journal is much more than just a magazine. Through live events, such as launch parties, social media and its website, the magazine informs readers and inspires vigorous, thoughtful dialogue in a growing number of ways. But even as our digital footprint grows, the printed magazine still matters.

Why? Because The Journal fills a gaping hole in getting people on the same page. Social media algorithms slice and dice us up into categories and segments. Almost no one sees the same posts, and civic life increasingly turns on dialogue among people working from vastly different information or worldviews.

The print edition is a huge part of what makes The Journal different. All 8,000 readers who receive The Journal in the mail have a shared experience. Regardless of their differences, be it political beliefs or geography, they all pick up the magazine from their mailbox or desk. After perhaps being briefly reminded of their training at KLC, they thumb through the pages and decide how they’ll use it. What they choose differs, but everybody starts in the same place.

I believe common experiences create the opportunity for stronger understandings that pave the way for more productive discussions among people who see the world differently. Without some common ground, it’s much harder to lead. The Journal is a thread that binds graduates of KLC programs and other interested readers in a healthier civic culture together. This is our contribution to the journalistic ecosystem in Kansas.

As a result, building community among our readers is more important than the clicks or shares we receive for any one story. What’s really amazing is how our readers influence us, too. For instance, the edition on guns and public safety that we published in February was created using the insights and advice of more than 500 graduates. In this issue, you’ll learn from the experiences of another 1,000 readers who have put KLC leadership competencies into action over the past decade. Having highly engaged readers makes this magazine stronger.

I’ve come to believe that this is a special publication, and working on it these past six years has provided many of my most enjoyable times as a journalist. I hope it’s special to you, too, and that you will continue to read it, share it and support it. Please join me in taking a moment to celebrate the past 10 years of The Journal, and imagine all the places we’ll be going together.

A version of this article was originally published in the Spring 2019 issue of The Journal, a publication of the Kansas Leadership Center. To learn more about KLC, visit http://kansasleadershipcenter.org. For a subscription to the printed edition of The Journal, visit klcjr.nl/1yrgiftsub.

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