Dispatches magazine prefers print over Internet

NEW YORK Mon May 12, 2008 9:34am EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A pall hangs over the word "print" these days, but the editors of a new magazine bet that discerning readers want news analysis on paper and don't mind getting it just four times a year.

Dispatches, which debuts on Monday, is taking a contrarian stance at a time when most news outlets are trying to stem the losses they're incurring in printed media by following readers and advertisers to the Internet.

The magazine, edited by journalist and author Mort Rosenblum and photographer Gary Knight, is a quarterly compilation of analyses of world events, with each issue grouped around a theme and featuring the work of well known journalists and authors.

While newspapers and news magazines have been adopting ever-faster schedules to keep up with the 24-hour news cycle prompted by the always-on nature of the Internet, Dispatches is slowing down the breathless delivery of "what" and downplaying instant analysis.

"Rather than compete with existing newspeople, we just thought we would go deeper and, when possible, closer, and deal with not so much the what and who, but the why and what can be done," said Rosenblum, a globetrotting former correspondent for the Associated Press and author of the book "Escaping Plato's Cave: How America's Blindness to the Rest of the World Threatens Our Survival."

Rosenblum's website (www.mortrosenblum.net) says cutbacks and deterioration in U.S. journalism brought on by ad sales declines and shareholder demands for constant profit leave readers without sources of analysis in times that are more dangerous and uncertain than ever.

The first issue of Dispatches includes essays on the theme "In America." One essay is a trip through New Orleans and other cities by journalist Muzamil Jaleel called "A Kashmiri in America: The Lucky Shade of Brown." It also features an essay by John Kifner of The New York Times that asserts that Americans ignore history at their peril.

Travel writer Paul Theroux and journalist Samantha Power also contribute to the first issue.

While the magazine features a website (www.rethink-dispatches.com), it will not be the heart of the matter, Rosenblum said in an interview last week.

"We're somewhere between Google and Gutenberg," he said. "We really believe there's a place for the printed word."

The press release announcing Dispatches's debut takes an even harder line, saying the magazine "is meant for those who savor the printed word and the timeless photo, from foreign-affairs specialists to students who want more than fleeting images on a computer screen."

Dispatches was funded by Simba Gill, former chief executive of biotechnology firm Maxygen. Rosenblum declined to say how much was contributed by Gill, who joined TPG Ventures, part of private equity firm Texas Pacific Group, in 2006.

The magazine may prove a tough sell for the wide market. The first issue costs $15, much more than many magazines with news analyses like Harper's and The New Yorker.

It also is unclear whether U.S. readers want to read sometimes unflattering portraits written by modern-day Alexis de Tocquevilles and presided over by Rosenblum, an editor who lives on a boat on the Seine River in France and an olive farm in Draguignan, near Nice.

"We're not really out there to build up subscription numbers," Rosenblum said. "If we sell a lot of magazines, we'll be really happy, but our goal here is to reflect this reality as we see it."

(Editing by John Wallace)

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