As a result, the reader bases of these magazines have imploded. Regarding Newsweek, Wikipedia charts their plummeting readership over the past decade: “In 2003, worldwide circulation was more than 4 million, including 2.7 million in the U.S; by 2010 it was down to 1.5 million (with newsstand sales declining to just over 40 thousand copies per week).”
Rendered dinosaurs in the age of the Blogosphere, Time and Newsweek now have to resort to stunt covers both to gin up PR, and in the hopes that somebody buys the thing when they see it in the checkout line at Pathmark or Walgreens. As the London Daily Mail reported on Sunday, “After Time magazine went with a cover shot of a young blonde mother breastfeeding her 3-year-old boy, Ms Brown is said to have taken it in stride, saying ‘let the games begin!’”
That covering the news is now a “game” highlights the lack of grown-ups in the newsroom and the editors’ offices. Beginning in the mid-1960s, a period when Luce retired from Time and shortly afterwards, passed away in 1967, the magazine began to quickly distance itself from his roots, and his founding vision for the magazine. Luce’s parents were Presbyterian missionaries to China; Luce was a moderate-to-liberal Republican who believed strongly in strengthening the Orient’s ties to America. As I mentioned in the recent video, during America’s transformation into an intellectual adjunct of the Weimar Republic, by the end of the ’60s, Time had asked, Nietzsche-style, if God was dead, turned its back on supporting the Vietnam War, and was asking…who are those strange people in middle America who voted for Nixon?
Still though, give Newsweek editor Tina Brown credit for one thing — albeit not necessarily intentionally. After spending 2008 putting up near-weekly covers with Obama in one messianic pose after another, and comparing him to Lincoln (Newsweek), FDR (Time), and belatedly Reagan (Time again, in 2011), at least Tina has put up a cover that will give Obama plenty of derision in flyover country. Henry Luce cared about those readers when he invented the genre of news magazines in the early 1920s. Ninety years later, like Pauline Kael and Nixon voters in the ’70s (“I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”), Time and Newsweek have largely written them off, and are only vaguely aware they exist.
In the meantime, as Jazz Shaw writes at Hot Air regarding the Newsweek cover, “When is the shark definitively jumped and the daily bread burned past any reasonable definition of being toast? Ladies and gentlemen, this would be that point.”
Barack Obama, on the other hand, has gone in the course of less than a decade from full throated* support of gay marriage to full opposition on religious grounds, back to full support. Are we really supposed to be buying this?
Apparently Mr. Sullivan thinks so. And Newsweek is more than happy to jump on board with a cover which will probably go down as one of the most ridiculed and satirized efforts in the history of magazine publication. (But I wouldn’t mind a piece of the sales from the poster, though.) Yeesh.
Not to mention sell plenty of copies of the latest edition of Adobe’s Photoshop program. I’m not sure how much it’s going to revive the currently atrophying fortunes of either Tina or Barry, but hey, as I wrote back in September on earlier larger than life, and yet somehow…unfortunate…moments with the president, Yes We Camp!
* Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.