Paper-thin thinking

Stuart Elliott, the Times ad columnist, jumps into the rhetorical trap of the newspaper writer stretching for a lead. He takes one event — one press release, in this case — and tries to make a trend out of it or argue that another trend is disproved so as to justify writing a whole column about it. Elliott takes the launch of a USA Weekend spinoff on health and says that print is not dead. Well, no one — not even this online triumphalist — has said that print is dead. Print is changing and in many cases, its audience, advertising, and margins are shrinking. Elliott does not even bother to note that plenty of other new Sunday newspaper supplements have been announced to great fanfare, only to fizzle: Parade’s teen magazine died and Time Inc.’s Life looks like it gets about $2 in ad revenue. If this health supplement succeeds, it will be because of regulatory requirements to print pages of side effects about advertised prescription medicines. So it may well succeed. And, as always, other magazines will be born and die every year. But Elliott stretches one dot on a graph into a trendline, ignoring all those other pesky dots there. Take it from an old columnist: It’s an old columnist’s trick.