As regular readers know, your GetReligionistas have had our issues with the postmodern Newsweek magazine ever since we opened this website. The issue, of course, is whether it remains a newsmagazine or has evolved into some kind of theological-political journal of opinion. By now, it is clear that it has and, thus, I came up with the label nonNewsweek for this new creation.
Anyway, the omnipresent Howard Kurtz of Washington Post recently produced an interesting story about trends in newsmagazines that tied together many of the forces that has been driving this corner of the news industry into niche, opinion-driven product. The headline: "That Shrinking Feeling: Time, Newsweek Narrow Their Focus."
When Rick Stengel joined Time in 1981, every story in progress filled a thick binder -- the reporter's version, the editor's rewritten version, the top editors' version, the fact-checked version -- that would be unimaginable in today's cut-to-the-bone corporate culture.
Many of the recently laid-off staffers, Stengel says, "were people whose jobs really didn't exist anymore."
When Jon Meacham joined Newsweek in 1995, "there was a phrase in the culture -- 'We need to get something in on X' -- that we never use anymore," he says. The days of a "newsmagazine of record," Meacham says, are long gone.
The rival editors are turning out weeklies that are smaller, more serious, more opinionated and, though they are loath to admit it, more liberal. They are pursuing a more elite audience, in print and on the Web, abandoning the old Henry Luce notion of catering to the masses. It is nothing less than a survival strategy.
So the goal is to have smaller magazines, smaller newsrooms and smaller, but more predictable, audiences.
What is the audience for the new nonNewsweek?
Meacham, wearing a dark sweater in his office overlooking Central Park, says that "we don't edit with the idea that there is a poor and uninformed reader out there who somehow needs illumination." He sees his audience as "the virtual Beltway," which he defines as people who watch Sunday talk shows, read newspapers and buy hardcover books.
In other words, smart people.
Which raises the obvious question: Who do they want to drive away from nonNewsweek? Who lives on the wrong side of the intellectual and cultural tracks?
To find out, click here for the gospel according to Michael Hirsh. Here's a sample:
What Obama's election means, above all, is that brains are back. Sense and pragmatism and the idea of considering-all-the-options are back. Studying one's enemies and thinking through strategic problems are back. Cultural understanding is back. Yahooism and jingoism and junk science about global warming and shabby legal reasoning about torture are out. The national culture of flag-pin shallowness that guided our foreign policy is gone with the wind. ...
We can finally go back to respecting logic and reason and studiousness under a president who doesn't seem to care much about what is "left," "right" or ideologically pure. Or what he thinks God is saying to him. A guy who keeps religion in its proper place -- in the pew.
Take that, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and everyone else in the history of this nation and culture who has embraced transcendent truths that affect heart, mind and soul.
Click. Click. Connect. Cancel?