May 25, 2009

"When I worked at Newsweek in the late 90s, I used to wonder at how all these talented people could sit at their desks in a sort of haze..."

"... it was as if a soul-deadening gas was permeating the offices."

Says Mickey Kaus, pondering the problems of magazines that summarize the week's news.

24 comments:

rhhardin said...

You can liven things up by parking in the executive lot.

kentuckyliz said...

Who reads week-old news any more?

In fact, isn't "week-old news" an oxymoron?

Oxymoron = moron with an oxygen tank = apt metaphor for the dead tree media

"Week-old news" should be called "olds."

SteveR said...

You can, at least, remediate mold but soul-deadening gasses, not so easy.

Paddy O. said...

Jon Meacham killed Newsweek, just as Jeff Zucker killed NBC.

Young guys, quickly promoted well beyond their wisdom, because of some mysterious reasons, which led to their continuing promotions even as what they worked for tanked in ratings and subscriptions. They have cost their respective companies millions and millions of dollars but somehow are still listened to as reflecting the inherent state of the industry they helped undermine.

They're both like Cardinals in the 16th century church, proclaiming how things have to be, utterly ignorant in the proclamation, and wondering why everyone is running away to join the young, upstart, pajama-wearing Protestants instead of just paying their indulgences like good little boys and girls.

Penny said...

One man's poison is another man's nectar.

Curtiss said...

Well, maybe if the weeklies had done more writing about what happened last week instead of making up what happened last week. Maybe.

I guess I'm just too old fashioned.

avwh said...

Newsweek became Obamaweek, which killed them in my household.

With 24-hour cable news and the internet, newsweeklies are endangered species anyway - but Meacham's putting the nails in the coffin, probably hastening their demise (unless they hang on as an Obama-cheerleading house organ to the Messiah's faithful).

Jason (the commenter) said...

avwh : (unless they hang on as an Obama-cheerleading house organ to the Messiah's faithful)

Originally each party had it's own newspaper. You subscribed to and advertised in the paper that represented your views. I see nothing wrong with papers going back to this model.

elHombre said...

Interesting that Kaus's take seems to be that the news magazines should, or will, be written to stimulate the staff and not the readers.

And isn't that just what's happening to the so-called MSM, Newsweek, NYT, etc. Self-indulgent journalists are killing them.

Good riddance!

Fen said...

Ha. These days, I only encounter Newsweek at airports and doctor's offices. I always take the time to ink "Leftist Propaganda BS" on the cover. Thinking about just having a stamp made.

But I did hear that Newsweek staff routinely use the Koran as toilet paper. Tweeting some islamic clerics on that now.

Penny said...

"And isn't that just what's happening to the so-called MSM, Newsweek, NYT, etc. Self-indulgent journalists are killing them."

Many years ago I worked for a publisher who included among many of the things they published, a successful newsmagazine. Perhaps the journalists are in fact self-indulgent, but at least from my experience, the highest levels of management saw that it would be so. This is not a case of the chicken or the egg.

Richard Dolan said...

Unlike Paddy and others, I don't think Meacham is killing Newsweek. It's just an idea whose time has passed.

Paddy offers an odd metaphor: "They're both like Cardinals in the 16th century church ...." How so? The image of "16th century cardinal" calls to mind a worldly hypocrite, committed to a radically conservative agenda and consumed by intrigue during the counter-reformation. Yet, whatever one may think about those cardinals, the institution they served survived and in it way thrived.

Meacham is nothing like those cardinals. As for survival, I don't think we'll be able to say the same about Newsweek.

William said...

The current issue is the new, improved Newsweek. They changed the font, and the articles are longer. Not more thought provoking, just longer. I'm not sure, but I think they're aiming for an Economist vibe. Serious news for serious people...I liked the old format better. There was more glossy trivia. I don't read glossy magazines to be exalted, but just to have something to thumb through in the gymn or on the subway....I'm no marketing genius, but if I wanted to market a product like ketchup to the broadest possible audience, I wouldn't give it a catchy brand name like Republicans Suck. In the current issue there is an adulatory article about Nancy Pelosi by Tina Brown. The few remaining Republicans on their subscription list will read it and consider it a big help in making up their minds about subscription renewal.

rhhardin said...

Imus on Meacham winning a Pulitzer Prize, real audio Apr 21, Meacham having stabbed Imus in the back over nappy headed ho's.

Meacham interview on Koran flushing May 23, 2005 real audio, explaining why they're sabotaging the war effort with yellow journalism.

traditionalguy said...

Newsweek comes into my life regularly from a friend who always warns me that I wont like it. With that challenge, sure enough I read it. There are some well written articles. But they also hold onto their alternate reality like a bulldog onto a bone. I actually feel sorry for such talented writers being held prisoner in their minds to untrue idealisms like a drug addict to the drug of their choice. Growing up is way more fun.

somefeller said...

Weekly news-summary magazines are dying because the market they serve (educated citizens who aren't looking for more intellectually heavy fare) is being served more effectively by 24-hour cable news and the internet. If you want a quick, bullet-point executive summary of what's going on in the world, you are better off skimming the headlines at cnn.com and reading the articles you want or watching a short cable news broadcast than by buying Newsweek or Time once a week. It's a question of technology. If cable news or the internet existed 30 years ago, weekly news-summary magazines would have died off long ago, just like photo newsmagazines like Life and Look.

There will continue to be a market for niche magazines that cater to particular news-oriented interests (National Review, American Prospect, etc.), but the Newsweeks of the world are part of an old media environment that is dying off for reasons of technology and demographics, not ideology. Shoot, I'm 38 years old, and I don't know anyone in my age group or younger who subscribes to Time or Newsweek, or who buys them for anything other than a quick read on an airplane. The only exception is the Economist, and that largely survives because of a mixture of Anglophilia, interest in news from abroad and snob appeal.

somefeller said...

By the way, I was going to say in my prior post that the Newsweeks of the world are part of an old media environment that is as dead as Walter Cronkite, but then I looked on Wikipedia and saw he was still alive. D'oh!

Paddy O. said...

Newsweek, Time, etc. are as dead as the decay of those leading them.

Books were dead--kids don't read!--until JK Rowling came along and showed how kids will read if they have something to read.

AM radio is dead!! Until a Rush Limbaugh comes along who finds and audience and has a certain amount of humor, intelligence, and agree or disagree insight.

Newsweeks of the world collapse because they take on the narrow range of mediocrity that doesn't believe in anything anymore, but wants to find companionship in the mediocrity and corrupt believing.

That's why they're like those old cardinals, who wallowed in the mess that was medieval Catholicism, were offended anyone would say there's something wrong, and then made a big deal when others did something about it finally. They hated the new media--printing, and the new personas, those pesky Protestants.

But the Catholic church was not an inherent dead institution. It needed a reformation of its own, pushing it along and reminding it why it was an important voice. Luther would have never left the Catholic church of today.

Newsweek's religion coverage was the sign of what came later. Jon Meacham took over and with his pasty, wan empty Episcopalianism (which isn't all Episcopals) he began to gut the great coverage with tired old cliches and popularized debunking. Kenneth Woodward, one of the best religion editors around, was pushed aside for this increasingly narrow view, that used Newsweek's pages to justify Meacham's own faith non-journey.

He's a unitarian in a world of Pentecostals, so who wants to read that?

That's true for all topics, and it's not a matter of there being no place for good and interesting coverage, it's a matter of there no longer being a place for that sad little old liberalism that makes for great friends, and promotions, in Washington dinner parties, but which isn't in tune with what people really want.

There's a huge market, methinks, for a balanced coverage that can interpret left and right, making sense of the yearnings within the yelling, and find the middle ground of understanding, even if there's not agreement.

My issue with such as Newsweek isn't their opinions, it's their deliberate distortion that flagrantly misrepresents and misunderstands with an air of a sad sense of superiority. We are talked down to by people who lose millions and have destroyed their brands.

There's certainly a market for a weekly magazine, just as there is for books and television and radio.

There is, though, a need for a strong counter-reformation to kick these old, decrepit cardinals out and find a new College who takes seriously the realities of human knowledge. People who really believe and think and have an interest in maintaining more than their little platforms of power.

This all could be said about current Republican leadership for that matter.

Tibore said...

Nobody reads standard news media weeklies anymore because those products are no longer truly informative and (dare I say it?) enlightening. But that's been the case with the print news media as a whole, not just Newsweek. If one of them would get an editorialist as talented at writing and analysis as Richard Fernandez, author of the Belmont Club, then maybe they'd have a chance to recapture my attention. But they don't. Too much insularity in the journalistic profession.

In twenty years, historians are going to realize that the uprooting of traditional media mindsets at the beginning of the internet age was the best thing that could've happened to the profession. We're currently experiencing the pruning off all the buggy-whip manufacturers. And it's a well needed pruning.

traditionalguy said...

Paddy O ... That was an excellent analysis of the Newsweek problem. It has become a prison of political correctness in which really good writers are wasting time and skills away inside.

Eric said...

I'm not sure, but I think they're aiming for an Economist vibe.

That's exactly what they want to do. They have, and I kid you not, a five year plan to turn the business around. One that includes getting rid of the hoi polloi and catering to people making more than $100k. They're supposed to jettison 1.1 million of, you know, those people by January, leaving them with 1.5 million well heeled subscribers paying an increased subscription price.

The real goal is to charge more to advertisers like, well, the Economist does.

It's a market segment that's working out for the Economist, the New Yorker, and the Atlantic, but how many of these upper crust weeklies can the market support?

Ralph said...

My aunt gave me Meacham's biography of Andrew Jackson for Christmas. Jackson had the editor of his newspaper, Francis Blair, actually living in the White House before he bought Blair House.

Bruce Hayden said...

It's a market segment that's working out for the Economist, the New Yorker, and the Atlantic, but how many of these upper crust weeklies can the market support?.

I would suggest none that cater to the left. That market is already overserved.

John Stodder said...

I would die to become editor of Newsweek. I would love to impose my hardy sense of even-handedness on a bunch of Harvard-educated reporters.

Here are some questions I would:

"How do you really know that?"

"How can you dismiss scientific information just because business had something to do with paying for it? Tell me whether it has merit, which might involve you reading it."

"Didn't we give him a blow job last week? Let's vary it a little."

"Where do you think the money will come from?"

"Are you familiar with any history prior to 1992?"