Valleywag.com carried a second hand report this week claiming that the print version of the trade weekly Infoworld is about to shutter its doors. Valleywag says that although the print edition of the Valley's oldest locally run computer magazine will cease operations, the magazine's website and web-based news group will live on.
InfoWorld, which is owned by IDG, has a storied history. In its more than 20-year life, this magazine has been the launchpad for several notable computer journalists including Stewart Alsop, Maggie Canon, John Dvorak, Jonathan Sacks, Ziff Brother's Investment counselor Michael Miller, PBS' Mark Stephens (who left InfoWorld with the name of the magazine's fictional field editor and gossip columnist, Robert Cringely) as well as New York Times technology journalists Laurie Flynn and John Markoff.
InfoWorld was a special place at a special time and some of the magazine's work needs to be memorialized.
Kathy Chin's late 1983 early 1984 story called "The Other Workers in The Valley." This cover story detailed differences between the expense account lunch, Porsche driving Silicon Valley executive types and the lives of hourly and piece work employees who or washed just-etched in acid boards in their family's kitchen sinks and then stuffed the boards with components before they were ready for final assembly. This piece was picked up by RedBook and Reader's Digest and set a very high bar for Valley-based investigative journalism.
Enterprise reporting by InfoWorld's John Markoff and Paul Frieberger's on the Apple Lisa and subsequent technical and marketing plans on the Macintosh: The story behind the story on this piece is one of the fascinating insights into InfoWorld's character in the early years. Markoff and Frieberger nailed the story and when his Jobness found out that InfoWorld was printing it, he went ballistic racing to contact the then editor, Maggie Canon, reportedly offering the cash strapped semiweekly a huge advertising contract and authorized cooperation (if InfoWorld agreed to Apple's conditions) to cancel the story. High Fives to Maggie, John and Paul for being the first to publish non-Apple-controlled stories on the Lisa and Macintosh. Ms Canon's tenure as Editor in Chief of InfoWorld shaped the magazine for years. She hired young eager reporters and took chances on columnists like John Dvorak.
The Stew Alsop years; The first innings:Stewart Alsop Jr. was made editor of InfoWorld by Pat McGovern after Stew built a new IDG property called ISV World, which later was renamed MicroMarket World. Stew followed Maggie and led the first redesign of InfoWorld, moving it from a newspaper tab format to a new format that so closely resembled Time Magazine that the management of Time-Life put an end to that specific redesign. Alsop's period at InfoWorld saw some of its greatest growth and a significant awareness on the importance of reviews. It also saw a near wholesale editorial staff walkout, when Mssrs Markoff, Frieberger and Mike Swain departed nearly en masse over Stew's announced plans for staffing and the future of the books. In mid through the late 80's InfoWorld grew and Stew Alsop drove that growth, while his corresponding stature in personal computing kept pace. Stew left InfoWorld and after a brief stop at Ziff Davis, founded PC Letter and the Agenda and Demo conferences. Stew later sold his newsletter and conference business to IDG, and came back to InfoWorld.
Stew's initial departure forced IDG's management to look for a new editor in chief. The top three candidates were then working in adjoining spaces at McGraw Hill's offices in Palo Alto. Th best candidate was John Sacks, a former Miami Herald feature writer who had earned a reputation by writing a great piece on pimps. Under John Sacks, InfoWorld blossomed. it was Sacks who brought in fellow McGraw Hill staffer Michael Miller as an Executive Editor charged with reshaping reviews.It was a perfect match and InfoWorld's reviews became razor sharp under Miller. Sack's reign at InfoWorld saw big circulation growth, although it never exceeded PCWeek's. It also saw some pranks, including the appearance of what at first-glance appeared to be an investigative story on the planting of an electronic worm in printers sold to Iraq's Defense Ministry. The worm captured sensitive information and then funneled that data back to US intelligence agencies. The story was a good read. It was published after the conclusion of the first Gulf War. The only thing that marred the story was the issue date, April 1, 1991. It took a lot of people a long time to get the April Fool's Day joke. But was it really a prank? Only the copy desk really knows and Debra Branscum and Alice LaPlante were always good at keeping secrets
If it's about to close up, I'll miss InfoWorld. I had a lot of fun there and I learned a lot in my two runs through IDG. To Stew Alsop, John Markoff, Scot Mace, Jon Sacks, Michael Miller, Rory O'Connor and others, I enjoyed working with you. To Kathy Chin, you kicked ass with that story and made a mark that has not yet been surpassed.Those were the days.
InfoWorld, from its body an industry arose.--Jim Forbes 03/23/2007
(mandatory disclosure: i was a senior editor at InfoWorld under several editors.I left to go report for PCWeek and returned to write PCLetter/DemoLetter and produce the Demo conferences. I had a good run and enjoyed working there)