Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Death of Newsweek

I've been a longtime Newsweek subscriber. It's been off and on, but I've had the magazine delivered since the late 1980s. Why Newsweek? I don't know, really. I honestly thought Newsweek was just so authoritative. Cool too! I've had subscriptions to Time and U.S. News as well, but there was something about Newsweek that seemed "just right." ("My Turn" was always a favorite, as was the "Periscope" and "quotes of the week" sections.)

I looked forward to reading it every Monday, from cover to cover.

I know, I know: It's a liberal rag! Well, I'm a a neocon, don't forget! I've not only been mugged by reality, I've been robbed at gunpoint for real!

Anyway, my subscription's expiring. I keep getting those notices in the mail, but since the magazine announced it was going to a "journal of opionion" format, I've balked. If I'm going to subscribe to journals of opinion, I'll get Commentary or Weekly Standard. There's a few others I like after that (Policy Review is scholarly and opinionated, and I like City Journal too), but most everything's available online nowadays anyway, so we'll see.

As for Newsweek, the change is a bummer in some sense. Basically, beyond the liberal or conservative debate, I'm still clinging to the "old media" model. I blame it partly on my teaching. As much as I love my outstanding textbook, the chapter on the mass media still doesn't quite capture the incredible dynamism of the online media world. The history of the press is so fabulous that I guess uncertainty is unsettling, even for me, a blogger! Not only that, surprisingly, not that many students are hip with the blogosphere, or at least very few tell me so. Some of it's plain old nostalgia. I've been a news junkie for 25 years. I blame the Los Angeles Times for my decision to become a political scientist! The crashing of traditional media is more personal for me in that sense, whereas others are relishing the sight of print journalism circling the drain.

All of this is a roundabout way of getting to John Podhoretz's critique,
at Contentions, of the "new" Newsweek (via Memeorandum).

Newsweek's shift to a new model was known last December (see, "
Newsweek to Cut Staff, Reporting in Magazine Makeover"). Editor Jon Meacham made the decision to basically eliminate traditional news reporting and shift to commentary and analysis on the hot button issues of the day. As doubtful a tack as that might be (Podhoretz says it's a surefire disaster), failiure was almost guaranteed by the embarrassing initial cover stories the magazine ran showcasing the new format. Particulary bad was Newsweek's article on gay marriage, "The Religious Case For Gay Marriage." Also terrible was "We Are All Socialists Now." These articles were just plain trash. And as a preview of things to come, frankly it's only be a matter of time before the magazine goes belly up.

Podhoretz thinks so too, and he hammers Meacham for claiming that Newsweek will remain "non-partisan." Read the whole thing, in any case. Podhoretz's discussion of the "flush" days when he was a young journalist working at Time is gold:
Twenty-seven years ago, I began my professional career at Time Magazine as a reporter-researcher in the World section, which was devoted to international news. Generally speaking, the World section ran 12 pages in the magazine. Nation, devoted to news within our borders, ran about the same or a page shorter. Think of that—an American publication, marketed to millions, that devoted slightly more of its attention, and vastly more of its budget, to news about events outside the United States.

Time Inc., the parent company of Time, was flush then. Very, very, very flush. So flush that the first week I was there, the World section had a farewell lunch for a writer who was being sent to Paris to serve as bureau chief…at Lutece, the most expensive restaurant in Manhattan, for 50 people.So flush that if you stayed past 8, you could take a limousine home…and take it anywhere, including to the Hamptons if you had weekend plans there. So flush that if a writer who lived, say, in suburban Connecticut, stayed late writing his article that week, he could stay in town at a hotel of his choice. So flush that, when I turned in an expense account covering my first month with a $32 charge on it for two books I’d bought for research purposes, my boss closed her office door and told me never to submit a report asking for less than $300 back, because it would make everybody else look bad. So flush when its editor-in-chief, the late Henry Grunwald, went to visit the facilities of a new publication called TV Cable Week that was based in White Plains, a 40 minute drive from the Time Life Building, he arrived by helicopter—and when he grew bored by the tour, he said to his aide, “Get me my helicopter.”

Those were, as they say, the days. No one in journalism will ever see their like again.


Dave said...





LOL-As a loooooooooong-time NBer, it certainly works for me. :-)


dave in boca said...

Donald, I left a few bird droppings on Jon Meacham on my own blog. I once spent an hour in NW Mging Editor Evan Thomas's office after the First Gulf War concerning Saddam Hussein after spending a few months in-theater during Desert Shield while an International Editor of the Oil Daily. Thomas was low-key and intelligent, and I forgave him for being Norman Thomas's grandson. Meacham is a true bantamweight and his "insights" on American religious politics range from banal to frivolous.

Alex McKenna said...

I thought the gay marriage thing was fine.

But in any case, it doesn't matter what religious people think.

If they put their faith in books obviously written by humans, with their own agendas; without really questioning them: it follows that their opinion is of little value.

Dave said...

Hey Beef,

When it comes time to rename London on the signs and maps around there to Londonistan, will you still be pushing the idea of gay marriage?

Somehow, I think not.


Reaganite Independent said...

Glossy high budget party rag... like Pravda meets Vanity Fair lol