Adapt or Die


December 12, 2020
Chess History

Chess Life editor John Hartmann said during the New Formats for Chess Journalism panel at the ChessTech conference Dec. 6: “Adapt or die.”

Hartmann was talking about the evolution of content and style in Chess Life as the magazine tries to keep a seat at the table with live streams and short videos.

The Chess Journalists of America used to send a quarterly print publication to its members. I last worked for CJA in 1990 as the editor of that quarterly.

How long ago was 1990? I dropped off my last issue at a small print shop on the San Francisco peninsula, where you could still find a small offset press every 10 blocks.

The printer asked if I wanted his crew to create the pre-press mechanicals (of which printers made negatives to burn into printing plates).

Oh, I’ve got artboards, I said.

The craft I learned best at college was pre-press paste-up, and it was already clear by 1990 that digital imaging would end small press operation and pre-press art as jobs. So I put great care into the artboards for that issue of The Chess Journalist, because I didn’t think I’d ever get to do something like that again.

I have follow-up questions for panelists at the ChessTech conference. When I worked at newspapers (remember those?), I scribbled notes during phone interviews. Today, they’re likely to say: ‘Write your questions, and I’ll answer them in email’, which ruins any chance of an interview going in some unexpected, interesting direction — though people might sound a little smarter if they can think for a while before answering reporters’ questions.

Instead of carrying paste-up flats to a print shop, I’m using WordPress. I even use WordPress like proverbial grandparents. No images spinning in a carousel, no ‘megamenus’, nothing shiny. I still believe — this could be obsolete, too — that if the copy is good, its presentation doesn’t have to attract attention.