With the great digital beast devouring the media landscape at a still-ferocious pace, those of us who retain an affection for and livelihood from print have spent the last decade contemplating the future in ways more emphatic, perhaps, than those who do not. We can’t speak for others, but here’s what we’re thinking: print is not dead, or even dying. In an increasingly ephemeral digital world (coming soon, the end of cash!), the tangible object becomes increasingly dear. Maybe not for everyone, not for the masses who once flipped their nickels to the newsies for a fix on the day’s headlines and stock prices, but for a discerning audience. Because print serves a smaller, if more selective crowd, than not long ago, its Darwinian struggles are not over. So what will separate the tetrapods who climb out of the media sludge and onto the dry land of the twenty-first century from those doomed to sink in the mud? Quality, we think, of writing and of image-making. And, most of all, finesse in integrating the whole into something that conveys the essence of print—that is, something that would be inherently inferior experientially in byte form.
So what’s this got to do with the issue at hand? Everything. Best of Chicago, Newcity’s signature annual now in its twenty-first edition, is made for print. Start with the artwork—a cover by Ivan Brunetti, one of the titanic forces in today’s comics medium, along with splash pages inside created by five of his protégés. Continue through the two-hundred-plus Best of items, written by the city’s finest journalists and critics. Sure, you can also read them online at Best.Newcity.com, but they work best as a chorus, not as hundreds of solitary soloists disconnected from the artwork and from each other. Proximity matters. And finally, there’s the advertising. In other media, advertising competes with content for your attention; it often interrupts and rudely asserts itself. Print advertising, especially the collection of advertisers we’ve assembled here, complements the content. It adds value to the collective product. And so, Best of Chicago. Best in print.
Turn the page now, and slowly savor this celebration of itself, and its city. Remember that the writing reflects the expertise of the critic, but that in fifty cases, we’ve surveyed you as well and added your opinion to the results. And enjoy the freshness of the content: you won’t see most of these categories again for at least five years.