I just got my copy of the San Francisco Panorama, the hefty, 320 page, one-time-only newspaper that feels as vast as the bridge pictured on its cover. The brainchild of David Eggers, the Panorama is intended to remind us what a newspaper can be — a skillfully written, stunningly designed product that grabs readers, surprises them and tells them something new about the world.
The problem is, it takes time — and money — to produce those kinds of stories. The Panorama is proof of this problem — it took five months to produce a single edition.
In the real world, the challenge facing newspapers is that they must be interesting every single day. And really, they’re only interesting some days. It’s hard to report and write an investigative story. It takes talent to write a colorful yarn that hooks readers and doesn’t let them go until the kicker. Readers have to decide if it’s worth the cost of a subscription to get those kinds of stories only some of the time.
I’m looking forward to reading the Panorama. But let’s be honest — it’s not a newspaper, a publication put out by frenetic, talented people on tight deadlines, who must often crank out stories about press conferences or humdrum public meetings to fill up the paper, but who also occasionally and miraculously smack us in the head with a powerful story that we never saw coming.