As Lemann explains:
We have had considerable success in fundraising for Columbia Journalism Review, but not so much that we can keep CJRDaily at the same editorial budget it has had, so we are going to reduce that budget, with regret. But even after the reduction, CJR will have the most substantial Web reporting and writing staff of any publication its size that I know of. We are making that commitment because we believe so deeply in the journalistic promise of the Web, even though, as everybody in journalism knows, it does not yet produce revenues commensurate with its quality. Our goal for Columbia Journalism Review, under the leadership of Victor Navasky, it that it be, in print and on the Web, as strong a media monitor as we can make it on the resources we have.
This is fascinating. The second sentence is just incredible. By what standard will this be “the most substantial Web reporting and writing staff of any publication its size”? Well, this is smoke because Lemann admits he has no idea what to compare it to. Then, to say the reduced funding is a “commitment” to a “deeply” held belief in the “journalistic promise of the Web” is stunning euphemistic nonsense. CJR Daily “does not yet produce revenues commensurate with its quality,” so let’s ensure that it becomes even harder to do so by cutting the budget. None of this should be a surprise.
I’m not criticizing the decision to make the cuts. It’s the oh-so-typical thing to do. But it is Columbia’s gig, and they are welcome to screw it up if they please. What I really object to is the rhetoric of Lemann’s statement. Why insult our intelligence this way? Just say it: A direct mail campaign for the magazine is more important than the CJR Daily.
In my 35 years in journalism, I’ve never seen a more interesting time in journalism. After years of decline and lament, possibilities are exploding all over the place. Sure, this makes for messy terrain — but also promising terrain!