Over the last few weeks, I've been extolling the wonders of the Internet. And just the other day, I discovered another of them. It used to be that when the print version of a magazine died, it was gone forever. But that's not the case now that the Web's around. Take The New Leader. The venerable journal that was more than 80 years old when it called it quits last year has since risen again on the Web, and the story behind its resurrection is itself of interest.
In an interview last week, longtime editor Myron Kolatch, who goes by "Mike," explained that when the imminent demise of the magazine was announced in a long article in The New York Times, he immediately began receiving inquiries about purchasing the magazine's archives. Only then did he realize that he held sway over a considerable commodity, and that its sale might hold the key to putting The New Leader on the Web.
Kolatch investigated a few sources and settled on Columbia University as the eventual home for the journal's archives. But he had a few demands. He wanted decent office space and a salary for his assistant (though he said he understood from the start that he wouldn't be drawing a paycheck).
He also wanted a Web presence -- and not just a place to post a few stories. He wanted each new issue of the magazine, which would begin with the January/February 2007 issue, to be on the site, and that all magazine pages be available in 81/2 x 11" printable PDF formats.
Columbia, which has always had a connection to the magazine through writers like Lionel and Diana Trilling, and others at the college who appeared in its pages, met Kolatch's demands. And so, there are now three full issues up and running, including the current double summer books issue (May/June-July/ August). And you can print out every page for free -- another of Kolatch's requirements.
The subjects and writers in these new issues are not much different from those that appeared in the print edition. And the format is the same clean, efficient, unfussy design that made the journal beloved by its small band of devoted readers and subscribers.
For example, in the January/February issue, Abraham Rabinovich looks at "How Israel Became Al Nakba," Norman Gelb considers "Britain's Muslim Problem" and a passel of critics -- Brooke Allen, Phoebe Pettingell, Stefan Kanfer and Tova Reich -- review new books.
In the March/April edition, Daniel Schorr contributes another of his longstanding columns, and Philadelphia's own Ruth Ellen Gruber reports from Berlin, as she's done for much of her writing career.
The summer books issue is a real treat for anyone so inclined to revel in its riches. In it are essays by Max Frankel and Sid Jacobson, and reviews by Clyde Haberman, Daphne Merkin and Alvin H. Rosenfeld.
It's good to know that, thanks to technology's touch, The New Leader wasn't forced to go the way of all flesh.