Thursday, December 11, 2008

Newsweek to Cut Staff, Reporting in Magazine Makeover

Newsweek is facing dire straits as the magazine's revenue base shrinks in a changing media market, the Wall Street Journal reports. To adapt, the publishers will reduce circulation and cull the magazine's hard news reporting, in a sense shifting the publication to a journal of opinion:

As it continues its shift away from news gathering toward a more provocative, idea-driven editorial approach, Newsweek is also considering other dramatic changes, including significantly reducing its rate base - the number of weekly copies it promises advertisers it will deliver ...

Recently, Newsweek has emphasized commentary on hot-button issues, such as gay marriage, by big-name journalists like editor Jon Meacham and international editor Fareed Zakaria, as well as contributions from political operatives and academics like Michael Beschloss and Sean Wilentz.

Newsweek is seeking in part to mirror publications like the Economist, which has thrived in a tough market by focusing less on costly news gathering than on driving discussion of the day's issues.
If this week's cover story is any indcation, the shift to opinion over rigorous reporting will likely mean more nails in the magazine's coffin. The article, "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage," was a poster-essay in journalistic malpractice on a number of levels. Factually innacurate and morally repulsive, some religious conservatives responded by pledging to cancel their subscriptions.

Interestingly, apparently in tandem with the case for gay marriage,
Newsweek's editors have positioned the magazine as a bulwark against religious fundamentalism:

We saw it coming. This week's cover story, written by Lisa Miller, our religion editor, lays out the religious case for gay marriage. As Jon Meacham says in his weekly Editor's Letter, "The reaction to this cover is not difficult to predict. Religious conservatives will say that the liberal media are once again seeking to impose their values (or their "agenda,"a favorite term to describe the views of those who disagree with you) on a God-fearing nation. Let the letters and e-mails come."
At times, Jon Meacham has himself written some of the best journalism around, but he's jumped the shark now. He says this at his editors' note:

No matter what one thinks about gay rights—for, against or somewhere in between — this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism.
He then backs up this assertion with the same kind of falsehoods that mar the magazine's cover story.

It's interesting that the Wall Street Journal compares Newsweek's developing model to the Economist. That magazine, probably the most rigorous newsweekly currently available, stands head-and-shoulders over Newsweek, as its editorial standards are based on a careful rationalism found in the same economic logic from which the publication is named.

Newsweek, in shifting its focus to publishing Bush-bashers like
Sean Wilentz and moral relativists like Fareed Zakaria, has essentially sold out to the Democratic zeitgeist of the times, a sort of journalistic Obamania. It's a disastrous short-term tack, as well as a disturbing reflection on the decline of moral clarity and objective reason in contemporary American journalism.

See, also, John at Powerline, who says "
Goodbye to Newsweek."