Ed Driscoll

Newsweek Squeaks Towards Its Demise

Speaking of magazines that had lost their way, John Podhoretz has a must-read description of why Newsweek failed:

For years, Newsweek was a liberal journal of opinion masquerading as a news publication that attempted to sell itself to a mass readership with a lot of health-care, entertainment, and lifestyle fluff. As a vehicle for news analysis, it was entirely conventional; as a purveyor of sociological fluff, it was kind of fun, though often enragingly so; as a journal of opinion, it was to actual journals of opinion as tofutti is to gelato, flavorless and bland and mock. Last year, Meacham and Co. ditched much of the news analysis and sociological fluff in favor of more and more opinion.

It will not surprise you to know that much of the opinion dealt with the ways in which Barack Obama was right and noble and good and strong and tough and resourceful and a good symbol and an agent of change and so is his wife, by the way — and when it was not about that, it was primarily about how the right is at war with itself and torn and in conflict and dominated by anger and full of rage and presumptively racist and anti-gay and anti-women and anti-media. That was to be expected. But there was really almost nothing else in there, and what was there as a matter of ideological coloration wasn’t especially tough or good or interesting or novel.

But in describing his redesign, there were two words that Meacham did not use, and they were “liberal” and “opinion.” Instead, he promised “complexity” and the publication of “the argued essay — a piece, grounded in reason and supported by evidence, that makes the case for something.” Even with the decision to jettison news from a magazine called Newsweek, its leaders could not bring themselves to acknowledge what the magazine actually was.

And the public beheld it, and like the child in the classic New Yorker cartoon, the public said, “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.”

Less than a year ago, Andrew Ferguson brilliantly skewered Newsweek, a magazine whose target audience basically consisted of its own editors, plus Katie, Maureen, Pinch, and not many others, and asked, “Are there really 1.5 million magazine readers–the number of subscribers Jon has promised advertisers–who want a liberal opinion magazine written by liberals who don’t want to admit they’re liberals?”

Hey, even the New York Times, MSNBC and Newsweek’s soon-to-be former owner are honest enough to occasionally break through their epistemic closure and cop to their biases from time to time.