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Roger L. Simon

How much for Newsweek?

May 5th, 2010 - 10:14 pm

Newsweek’s for sale.  What would you pay for it?

I’ll tell you what I would pay. Nada. Rien. Gor nichtMitte midagi.  (That last is “nothing” in Estonian.)

In fact, worse than that.  The Washington Post would have to pay me to take Newsweek off its hands – and a substantial sum, in the neighborhood of sixty million.  You figure it out. In 2008, the magazine lost $16.1 million; in 2009, that went to $29.3 million.  Not a promising proposition.

And what is Newsweek anyway?  In recent years it’s been nothing more than a semi-leftwing propaganda rag for Upper West Side dentists – chock full of the kind of opinion you can get for nothing on the Huffington Post or even the Daily Kos. Newsweek is slightly better written, I admit.  But if you’re looking for English prose, I suggest The New Statesman or an old paperback of E. B. White.

The magazine doesn’t offer much in the way of hard news either, at least news you’ve haven’t seen or heard days earlier in a variety of online or television venues.  And when it does venture into the realm of the breaking, you get embarrassing disinfo like the supposed flushing of Korans down Guantanamo toilets by our military. For that one, Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff, avid for an anti-American scoop, didn’t even bother to find out if they even had flush toilets in Gitmo. They didn’t.  Before long the tawdry reporting had led to Muslim rioting. (And they say blogs are sloppy.)

But never mind.  Isn’t Newsweek a brand name?  Isn’t that what we’d be buying?  Well, yes, but what could be worse than the word “week” attached to news these days?  “Newsday,” speaking of another dying publication, is bad enough.  Week is virtually lethargic.  “Newsminute” might be more like it. (By the way, you can get into the “backorder auction” for that URL at GoDaddy.com for $15.99.  I checked.)

What’s surprising is this would-be sale took so long. Newsweeklies have been considered dead since the Fillmore Administration.  But now… with the advent of the iPad… there has been talk of a renaissance.  It wasn’t enough for the WaPo apparently, which has its eyes on bigger things, like the aforementioned HuffPo and Kos.  The newspaper wants to get into the blog business.

Well, cheaper than Newsweek, but will the dentists subscribe? And I wonder if this move online by the newspaper will be so easy in the end.  My observation of mainstream media blogs, for the most part, is that they feel forced.  They are an imitation, sort of like white men singing the blues.  And so far there has been no Joe Cocker in the crowd.  Further, again with some exceptions, when bloggers get bought by MSM venues, their work begins to seem stodgy. Maybe it’s the logos.

I don’t know what the solution is for this. These are certainly tricky economic times for everyone.  But I do have a suggestion for the Washington Post. Why don’t they put their newspaper and Newsweek on sale together – a package deal? That seems somehow more appealing.  Maybe Craigslist would buy them.

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