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Thanks For Reading

by Rudy M. Baum
September 17, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 38

Almost nine years ago, on Jan. 1, 2004, I became the ninth editor-in-chief of C&EN, succeeding Madeleine Jacobs, who had just taken over as ACS executive director and CEO.

My first editorial as editor-in-chief appeared in the Jan. 12 issue. It was entitled “Change And Constancy,” and it talked about the many changes that I had witnessed at C&EN in my then-24-year career, and just as important, the constants that informed all of us at the magazine. I concluded: “There are many reasons to publish a magazine, but there is really only one good reason: to deliver an excellent product that serves the needs and interests of its readers. That has been another constant at C&EN for 81 years, and it remains one for me and the other 51 members of C&EN’s extraordinarily talented staff.”

Then, above my signature, I added a final paragraph consisting of a single sentence: “Thanks for reading.”

The sentiment seemed appropriate in the context of that editorial. I didn’t think anything more about it until I wrote my next editorial on custom chemicals for the following issue. When I got to the end, it just seemed natural to include the sign-off, a fitting way to close the column. And it became part of my signature.

I meant it then, and I still do. Over the years, a few readers wrote to complain that the sentiment seemed forced or facile, that if an essay was worth reading, the author shouldn’t have to thank anyone for reading it. I’ve never looked at it that way. There was then, and there is even more so today, far too much information in the world for anyone to digest. I very much appreciate the fact that ACS members and others take the time to read C&EN each week.

I’ve known for several years, well before I had decided to retire, that the title of my final editorial would be “Thanks For ­Reading,” and so it is. This is my last editorial as C&EN editor-in-chief; as of this issue date, Sept. 17, Maureen Rouhi takes over as C&EN’s 10th editor-in-chief.

I feel very privileged to have been part of the C&EN family for the past 32 years and to have led the team for the past nine. When I started at C&EN, we wrote our stories on IBM Selectric typewriters and sent copy and graphics to the printer in a “pouch” that traveled overnight by courier. My first computer at the magazine, as the West Coast bureau head in 1982, was a Texas Instruments personal computer with 256 kilobytes of memory; I accessed the word processing program directly from a 5 1/4-inch floppy disk.

Technology has profoundly changed journalism during my tenure with C&EN. Much of the change has been positive—who can imagine doing research on a topic without access to the Internet?—but the business model for journalism remains very much in a state of flux. The silly mantra, “Information wants to be free,” overlooks the fact that quality information requires effort, and effort costs money. Blogs are all well and good, they add richness to the exchange of information, but they are not journalism, and they never will be.

C&EN is more than a magazine. It is a unique resource that I hope ACS will continue to nurture and support. It is the more than 50 dedicated professionals who are deeply committed to assembling a unique package of information on the chemistry enterprise every day and every week. They are passionate about their work. No one else is doing what they do anywhere in the world. C&EN is not just the number one benefit of membership in ACS; it makes an important contribution to fulfilling ACS’s commitment to informing the public of the contributions of chemistry to society.

I am deeply grateful to the American Chemical Society for the opportunity I have had as C&EN editor-in-chief. And I am deeply grateful to all of C&EN’s readers. It’s been a privilege to be able to communicate with you and hear your thoughts for the past nine years.

Thanks for reading.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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