The Future of Print: The Rival Predictions of Ruth Reichl and Regina Schrambling
As the world of the printed page shifts around us, two warring camps have sprung up: those direly predicting the end of print, and those who think it'll pull through, cockroach-like, in spite of it all. When it comes to food, we're taking it upon ourselves to anoint figureheads. In a an interview Sunday with Heritage Radio Network, Regina Schrambling predicted that print will never die. "I was in the train for a long time today," she offered as justification for magazines' continued usefulness. "And what was in my bag? You still need something."
In the other corner, there's Ruth Reichl. The erstwhile Gourmet editor told The Observer last week that print is on the road to death, saying that "I think print magazines as we know them will cease to exist." Instead, Reichl envisions a shiny futuristic device that'll "incorporate video, instant shopping [but] won’t be online." (Reichl's ideas aren't so far-fetched: Gizmodo recently published a report that Apple is working on a tablet with aims to "redefine print," citing unnamed sources at The New York Times who claimed that the paper was approached by Apple to "talk about putting the paper on a 'new device.'")
The question is who to believe. In a Reichl vs. Schrambling "Future Of Print" predictions racket, we have a feeling that most oddsmakers would go with Reichl — after all, she's one of the most recognizable faces in food journalism. But that's exactly why we think she's not the one to listen to.
From 1984 up until two weeks ago, Reichl's held only three jobs: top-level editorial positions with the L.A. Times, New York Times, and Gourmet, all of them salaried and benefitted, and all of them luxuriously underwritten by publishers who wanted Reichl to produce a glossy, exciting result. It's not exactly the position of the everyman.
So compare Reichl's top-down view of the food world to that of Regina Schrambling. She's freelanced all over the place — for nearly two decades her food-related bylines have shown up in publications both culinary and not (including stints at places like The New York Times, but none as longstanding as Reichl's various tenures). And, for that matter, Schrambling was one of the earliest food bloggers: the "Paleolithic" archives on her site Gastropoda date back to 2002. (In contrast, Reichl appears to have engaged with new media only in conjunction with the Gourmet brand.)
As far as we're concerned, someone like Schrambling — who engages with nearly every aspect of the media world (come on, the quote inspired us to write this post happened on the freaking radio) — has a much clearer sense of the overall media landscape. Reichl, after all, believed that her magazine was invulnerable. We're not saying that Ruth Reichl is wrong about everything — like everyone who's ever met her, we love her, and we think she is wonderful at what she does. But what she does is not try to make a living by cobbling together freelance assignments and building a personal brand by sounding out what it is readers (and listeners, twitterers, ann viewers) are interested in. That is, however, what someone like Regina Schrambling does. And we're much more inclined, in this matter, to believe someone coming from her position and experience. Print media has a lot going for it, and as we've written before, food writing in magazines is alive and well. We don't think it'll die out anytime soon.