Howie Kurtz has one of those thousand violins playing just for the media type articles in the Washington Post today, chronicling the travails of Time and Newsweek and their “savvy” managing editors Rick Stengel and Jon Meacham. A couple things struck me. First:
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.
Now, the idea that Newsweek or Time will ever be the kind of product that appeals to a truly well-informed (that may be what they mean by “elite”) audience is laughable. I’ve never, ever heard anyone with half a brain tell me about a “great article they just read” in Time or Newsweek whereas I’ve heard that countless times about Mother Jones, The New Yorker, The Economist, The New York Review of Books, and The American Prospect. It’s worth noting that all the publications I just mentioned — with the exception of The Economist — are seen as liberal (though I’m not sure I agree). There is no way to produce quality journalism anymore without being seen as liberal. It’s time to just admit that.
The trouble, of course, is that Time and Newsweek spent so long catering to the Fox crowd — hiring Bill Kristol as a columnist, writing hagiographies of Bush, mocking attempts to investigate Alberto Gonzales — that it’s too late. For me, Time and Newsweek will never be anything more than Murdoch lite and I would never subscribe to either magazine, no matter how “liberal” they become.
But this got me too:
cut-to-the-bone corporate culture.[….]
Meacham, wearing a dark sweater in his office overlooking Central Park
Stengel, wearing a dark sweater in his office with a view of the Hudson River….
Now, if they’re really so broke, why do they have offices with such great views? Do companies ever think about economizing by cutting back on bigwig perks rather than by screwing everyday workers? To me, this is particularly galling when it’s a media company that acts like it was serving some higher cultural purpose.
I’ll be glad when both of those magazines go out of business (and I say that as someone who dreads the day when the NYT and WaPo are gone). They’ve never done anything but repeat conventional wisdom and suck up to power. Good riddance.
Update: Interestingly, in this same article, Howie quotes MM saying “Pomp and circumstance have been replaced with pimp and self-aggrandizement” without comment.