From the Editor: The Practical Pedal Story Incubator
You wouldn’t think there’d be a whole lot of room to innovate in the production of a newspaper (especially a tiny 16-pager like the Practical P.) Such a thing has been around so long that it’s death, rather than its future, is more often the topic of conversation. In spite of this, I think the newspaper has not only a future, but plenty of room within which to innovate.
But first things first. A newspaper is not journalism, it’s a delivery method for journalism. Second, though the newsprint format has long been associated with the delivery of daily news, it would be a mistake to assume that this is all it is good for. In fact, in these days of the web, the newspaper is a terrible format for the delivery of timely information when compared to the electronic newcomer. This has all been said elsewhere, of course. The relevant question for us to ask is, what does the newspaper do well, and how can we use it in the best possible way?
There are parallels with practical cycling here. The bicycle-as-transportation is also considered antiquated, old-fashioned, and outmoded by newer technology, namely the automobile. In the rush to embrace the future of transportation, we built ourselves into a remote, suburban corner and cemented (or should I say asphalted) our dependence on a single solution. Many recognize this as the mistake it was. But even if we all did, the legacy effects will continue.
A similar rush toward the future is happening in the way we produce and consume media. The death of the newspaper is nigh, and for news, I say this death can’t come soon enough. But the question remains, what does the newspaper still do well?
In an attempt to answer this question in practice, the Practical Pedal will be going through a number of changes. We have a lot of ideas, many of which will be complete duds, but we hope some of them will turn out to be answers. What we won’t do is make the same mistake transportation designers made so many years ago. We won’t simply assume that the web is the end all, be all of media.
We’ll begin this grand adventure by building off an assumption we hold dear, that there is a fundamental difference between news content and analysis content. In the cycling world, news content would be thing like new product listings, bike reviews, event calendars, and race results. This kind of information belongs on the web, in blog posts, twitter conversations, and on forums. Analysis content, however, is different. Analysis is fundamentally dependent on the notion of a culmination of effort. If news is a scattering of rocks across a meadow, analysis is someone coming along and stacking those rocks into a cairn. Such cairns are by no means eternal. They erode with time or with the ever-changing navigational desires of those who built them. But they do represent an organized attempt to make sense of complicated information at a particular point in time. And it is these cairns, made of words and thoughts, that we think a printed delivery method still serves. It’s a platform that restricts content rather than expands it and we think that this restriction can act as a source of much needed focus, even if for a short while.
Focus on what, you might ask. Well, to our mind the purpose of any good magazine (or newspaper) is to help a community answer its difficult questions. It should act as a place for discussion, debate, and, at various points along the way, single-minded (as in one author) attempts at curation of that conversation. This isn’t to say that these cairns-in-the-field will give the correct answers or will be infallible simply because they’ve been printed, just that they will help us focus our thoughts from time to time; that has tremendous value.
In order to steer the Practical Pedal toward this goal, we’re launching what we call the Incubator. Simply put, the Incubator means that the feature stories for each new issue (there are 3 per issue) will begin life in the form of a question. Over the course of the months between issues, we will encourage commentary. But this is more than just another comment section. Each question will be assigned a writer, someone to ask questions of the community and to track down links and research material that everyone gets to read--someone to stack the rocks the community provides. The culmination of this effort is a printed article.
We hope that the Incubator will be one good way to combine the best of the web with the best of print. And even though only a small percentage will likely participate, the quality of the thought will be much improved for it. How rad will that be?
To get involved, go to www.practicalpedal.com/incubator/