Michael Kinsley's history of Slate.

June 1996 - June 2006.
June 18 2006 8:26 PM

My History of Slate

The founding editor looks back at our first 10 years.

(Continued from Page 1)

And subscribers don't really pay for print magazines: Even very successful glossy magazines often don't get enough from subscribers to cover the cost of finding them (through junk mail) and signing them up. The reason they bother to extract money from people is to persuade advertisers that these people really want the magazine and therefore are likely to actually read it. On the Web, you don't have to do that indirectly: You know exactly how many people have clicked their way onto a page. That makes the whole system of soliciting and charging subscribers unnecessary. There will probably be a small role for subscriber-paid journalism on the Web, but not a large one. And Slate is unlikely to be at the head of the pack. Been there, done that.

The magazine I dreamed of starting was a newsmagazine. On paper, on the Web, painted on the walls of caves—I didn't care. My theory was that Time and Newsweek had basically abandoned their mission. They responded to every crisis of identity for the past half-century in exactly the wrong way. From television to the Internet, the newsmags always assumed that new developments were making their central function of intelligently summarizing the news obsolete. So, for half a century or more they have been in retreat from that true function into features, consumerism, photographs, investigative reporting, health, sex—anything but telling and trying to explain what is going on in the world at the moment.


In fact (or so I theorize), the explosion of information, analysis, and opinion between 1950 and today makes a smart summarizing function more necessary, not less so. And that is what I thought Slate could provide, occupying the ground abandoned by its betters. Happily, the Web is made for this kind of thing. With links backward to the original story, or forward to a report due out next Tuesday, easy-to-use charts and graphs and photos, etc., the Web could perform "intelligent synthesis" on the world and the news a lot better than the traditional newsmagazines could. Or that was my theory. For 10 years, Slate has tried to do that and—especially under the current editor, Jacob Weisberg—a lot more.

Has Slate succeeded? Recently I was out of town and out of touch for about a week. Coming home, I read Time and Newsweek on the plane, then spent about 45 minutes with Slate when I got to a computer. So, which would I pick if I had to choose just one to bring me up to speed? Although I've had nothing to do with Slate's management now for almost half its existence, I suppose my objectivity may still be suspect. I say only that the answer made me very, very happy.

The Best of Slate.

This article is adapted from the introduction to The Best of Slate: A 10th Anniversary Anthology. Click here to buy the book.

Michael Kinsley is a columnist for the Washington Post and the founding editor of Slate.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.