Editor's Letter

The Rearguard of the Revolution

Yes, you can read Reed on a screen just two inches wide.

By Chris Lydgate ’90

The final straw was the phone I got for Christmas.

For years, I was a confirmed foot-dragger in the technological sprint, a digital Neanderthal thumbing through phone directories and scrawling notes on manila folders while nimbler colleagues dashed past me scattering tweets and blogs. My antique cell phone was the laughingstock of the office; my 12-year-old son rolled his eyes whenever I used it in public.

So Christmas morning I found myself unwrapping a sleek new iPhone complete with the latest edition of the New York Times on its miniscule screen.

My career in journalism has revolved around newsprint since the first article I wrote for the Quest in 1984. The scent of the ink, the texture of the paper, the serendipitous thrill of turning the page and stumbling across a great story—I will proclaim these joys until they pry my dog-eared copy of Roget’s Thesaurus from my cold dead fingers.

But if truth be told, there’s a lot to be said for reading on a smartphone. You can read it by candlelight. You can read it in pitch darkness. Squinting at the type? Just make it bigger. Wondering about a reference? It’s a keystroke away. In the midst of an article on Callista Gingrich, I was able to zoom in on her hair in all its platinum glory—and then email it to my wife.

The bottom line is that digital publishing offers possibilities that print can only dream about. Take Geoff Koch’s terrific cover story on sociologist Martina Morris ’80 and her work on HIV. The article roams from Reed to Kenya, through sociology, statistics, public health, John Pock, and even choreography—a challenge for any magazine designer.

I’m proud of the way our feature turned out. But there’s even more on our website. You can watch a computer animation of virus propagation. Listen to a BBC radio report on extramarital sex in Uganda. Read Martina’s original research. Follow a televised debate. Throw in your own two cents’ worth in the comments section.

Many readers just prefer print—I do, too. But if you haven’t seen it recently, our website, redesigned from stem to stern by ace designer Tom Humphrey, is worth a visit. You’ll find our lively Sallyportal blog, browsable archives, comments, videos, links, and photos. (I can’t promise platinum hair.) Some sections still aren’t online, but will probably go live later this year.

Have we reached the end of print? Absolutely not. But we have, I think, begun to find a true symbiosis, where the print and digital versions work together, each exploring ideas in its own way. The technology keeps changing. I want to make sure we harness that technology to serve the things that don’t change—the ideals, the mission, and the character that make Reed unique.