An Ode to Print: The Mockingbird Magazine

A quick Google search will show that researchers have studied and continue to study the […]

Charlotte Donlon / 7.12.17

A quick Google search will show that researchers have studied and continue to study the differences that exist between print and digital reading experiences. There are pros and cons of both mediums, and it looks like neither format will disappear anytime soon.

I love the physicality of real paper and definitely connect with Ferris Jabr’s words here from a 2013 Scientific American article “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens”:

In most cases, paper books have more obvious topography than onscreen text. An open paperback presents a reader with two clearly defined domains—the left and right pages—and a total of eight corners with which to orient oneself. A reader can focus on a single page of a paper book without losing sight of the whole text: one can see where the book begins and ends and where one page is in relation to those borders. One can even feel the thickness of the pages read in one hand and pages to be read in the other. Turning the pages of a paper book is like leaving one footprint after another on the trail—there’s a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far one has traveled. All these features not only make text in a paper book easily navigable, they also make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text.

When we hold a real book or magazine in our hands, we have a better handle of the journey we are on—we can see where we’ve been and where we’re going. We can see where we started on the first page and can have a sense of satisfaction and finality as we turn the final page. These signals don’t come through as clearly when reading on an e-reader or when scrolling on a computer screen.

This physical experience of reading print materials is just one reason I’m drawn to The Mockingbird,  Mockingbird’s print quarterly magazine which was introduced in 2014. With content that’s written in the same spirit of the posts online, each of the nine issues holds timeless meditations on grace and life, an interview relevant to the topic at hand, lists of movies and songs and other listable items, an anonymous confessional, and a sermon. This isn’t your typical Christian magazine fare. When a new issue arrives, you have a sort of order of worship waiting for you with multiple opportunities to encounter Jesus, others, and self.

In the “Opener” of the first issue of The Mockingbird, editor Ethan Richardson writes,

The Mockingbird is a quarterly magazine that hopes to do just this: “to care and not to care.” In articles both short and long, the aim is to present good writing that looks into the lives of people, and to offer there the wisdom and heart of the Christian message of God’s grace. This may include writing about monster ballads or economic policy, college admission rates or modern psychology. We will point to the elemental sameness of some of today’s “contemporary” issues. We will also point to the very foreign hope that still speaks through normal days and old stories.

Richardson and everyone else at Mockingbird who make this print magazine a reality four times each year continue to fulfill this original vision while covering topics such as identity, forgiveness, mental health, food, and—coming soon to a mailbox near you—love and death. In these pages that we can turn and stain and crumple and dog-ear, The Mockingbird writers do what Mockingbird writers do—they write about what happens at the intersection of grace and life. And we readers enter the dance that occurs between words and ideas and truth and questions, coming out on the other side with more to chew on, more to contemplate, and the real weight of a physical object in our hands that represents a journey that can’t be replicated on any screen.