Issue 2-1, Reviews

Review: Magazine Editing in Print and Online, third edition, by John Morrish and Paul Bradshaw

by Jenny McKay, University of Sunderland

The range of books available to journalism lecturers to offer to students as reading has grown from zero in the 40 years since journalism was introduced into universities in the UK. Now there are scores of texts on news, broadcast and online journalism.

Most of these either guide the beginner in the ways of the craft or inform a reflective approach to the activities of journalists. Some of them even mention ethics – an idea that would have been laughed at in the past.
This is all to the good but the assumption still seems to prevail that news and news outlets are all that really matters when journalism is under scrutiny: few books, even today, are concerned with magazines.

This is as surprising as it is unfair given the significance of the UK’s magazine industry, or industries as Morrish and Bradshaw suggest is the accurate term. Publishing may have suffered because of the financial crisis and the rise of the digital universe but no one could argue convincingly the outlook for magazines is as bad as it is for newspapers. As the authors note: ‘In the decade since the invention of the World Wide Web, consumer spending on magazines actually increased by 48 per cent,’ and the UK’s publishing market is ‘one of the hungriest . . . in the world’.

Whatever the reasons for this unjustifiable neglect, the consequence is a dearth of books that focus on magazines whether covering journalism, design, careers, history or the perspectives of cultural theorists.
One of the few texts available (since 1996), is John Morrish’s informative Magazine Editing. For this welcome, fully revised edition Morrish has teamed with Paul Bradshaw to ensure there is comprehensive coverage of all things online to sit alongside other aspects of magazines such as writing, production, marketing and finance.

The book’s title implies it is aimed not at students or academics or even journalists in general but at the small band of those who edit their own publication or ‘content proposition’ as publishers now label what we used to think of as magazines.
It may be hard for devoted subscribers to think of curling up on the sofa with a ‘content proposition’ instead of their favourite title, yet those who work in magazines, teach about or study them, must keep up with the latest jargon and the thinking it exemplifies. This book will help them do that without overwhelming them with management gobbledegook.
So whatever its title suggests, Magazine Editing has a potentially wide and growing audience. It is, and was in its earlier incarnations, a valuable and thorough guide to all the aspects of publishing editors and their staff should know about.

When magazine journalism training was first formalised publishers said it was important for their editorial teams to have a sound understanding of the business aspects of publishing. That remains the case and is now reflected in the inclusion of ‘Business of Magazines’ as a topic in many university degrees.

For students on those courses this book offers a readable introduction to the industry so it should definitely be stocked by every library where magazine journalism and publishing is taught.
If I have a quibble it’s over the limited extent to which references are given. There are some sources listed at the end of chapters but probably not enough to satisfy the demands of a student essay writer. Editors though, the main target readers, should know where to check.

Magazine Editing in Print and Online, third edition, by John Morrish and Paul Bradshaw, published by Routledge, 2012. ISBN 978-0-415-60834-3 (hardback) ISBN 978-0-415-60835-0 (paperback) ISBN 978-0-203-80464-3 (e-book)