Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why is Newsweek for Sale? Because it Sucks

Well, today is a good day to write this post. It’s been sitting in my idea file for a month or more. Yesterday, the Washington Post announced that it wants to sell Newsweek because the magazine just isn’t profitable.

This in spite of Newsweek’s having gone through a total reformatting and overhaul last year.

As a subscriber, I think the reason is pretty simple. Newsweek sucks.
I’ve been a Newsweek reader for over 40 years. In that time it was a companion. It was a constant source of information. When I first taught American Government (Political Science 101) way back in the mid-70s I used it as a “textbook” rather than a more traditional tome. It was a great source for weaving a curriculum about the workings of the American government and stimulating a functional understanding in the minds of students on topics from VietNam to Watergate to Presidential Pardons.

And Newsweek really, really blew it last year when the magazine was totally re-formatted. When the new format first came out, it was literally impossible to differentiate between editorial and advertising content. In fact, it seemed as though pages and sections were intentionally designed to complement advertising both in terms of topic and graphics.

“In the old days”, Newsweek was a source of summaries of the events and happenings of the past week. It covered the gamut. Most articles were synopses of major news stories and every week there would be at least one full blown feature. Plus, the columnists and editors did a wonderful job “connecting the dots” between various stories. The magazine not only contributed greatly as an information source but it contributed just as much as a source of understanding.

But today it’s as though the magazine wants to be a print version of Huffington Post. Articles are written by people you’ve never heard of writing on subjects where you wonder about their source of expertise. Each is a full page of compressed grey type that gets intimidating as you turn through page after page after page of smarmy commentary notable more for the writer’s sense of smug certainty than for the use of topical expertise to illuminate issues.

So, to me anyway, the magazine has turned boring and has been made superfluous. It’s been made superfluous simply because it’s trying to be something it isn’t and because it’s not even doing that very well. For years, Newsweek did what it did very, very well. It quit doing that at all and now the best that can be said for it is that it sucks. I don't want a blog on paper. I want a newsmagazine and Newsweek forgot how to do that.

I’ve already told them that I would not be renewing my subscription. Too bad, because Newsweek has always been an old friend welcome in my home sitting on either the coffee table or the back of the commode. Now, the only way it’ll be on the back of the commode is if they start printing it on Charmin.

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