On Political Books

November/ December 2011 When Giants Roamed the Earth

How the self-proclaimed Capitalist Tool was brought down by capitalism itself.

By Jamie Malanowski

What angers Pinkerton is that the new digitalista regime that eventually won control of Forbes turned its face to this vapid future and embraced it. Forbes is now headed by Lewis D’Vorkin (a man whom I met once and nominally worked under for a year when I blogged at True/Slant, a site he founded). D’Vorkin has the title of chief product officer, and if you’re like me, you hear in that Silicon Valley phrase a snub of journalism’s most noble and romantic notions so forceful that it practically invites you to start humming a certain Cee Lo Green megahit. According to D’Vorkin, speed is the new accuracy. Editors should be “curators of talent and marketers of stories” who blend the contributions of dozens if not hundreds of people, many of whom are not paid. Journalism is no longer news, or stories; it’s “a conversation.” Thus did Vichy welcome its conqueror.

“There’s an important distinction between one hundred people using their cell phones to record an event and real journalism, calcified as some of its traditions and procedures may be,” writes Pinkerton in a rousing defense of professional journalism as performed at magazines.

What’s missing from the raw footage is the authoritative voice, the result of years of source cultivation, the building up of levels of trust that allow a reporter to put something into context. It’s something only established news outlets can do. Most people need an expert to filter, prioritize, and context information. A fire hose of information without that is useless.

Journalism is essentially an elitist endeavor. A well-written, well-edited, well-researched magazine will almost always have more to offer a reader than the lone blogger does, but that is true only if the editors and writers act like Jim Michaels did and simply never tolerate sloppiness and boredom and laziness. And if that’s not enough for magazines to secure their place in the future, it’s better to go down believing in excellence than to walk into the light of the shining day of the slide show.


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Jamie Malanowski is a writer and editor. He has been an editor at Time, Esquire and most recently Playboy, where he was Managing Editor.

Comments

  • David Rockefller on November 07, 2011 6:41 PM:

    I subscribed to Forbes magazine in the early 1990s, back when I worked on Wall Street and my job required I read pretty much everything, if only to know what everyone else was reading.

    Even then, Forbes was terrible. A waste of newsprint. Every article read as if the reporter was doing a PR person a favor. I remember one piece claiming that India's economy was poised to overtake China's because it had property rights and rule of law left over from the British. It was laughable, the sort of thing a college student might write.

    The magazine's weakness was it never did research to challenge what its reporter was being told by PR flacks. Lots of back and forth between the parties to a disputes (Person A: Company X is great. Person B: No, it's not.) in which it's clear which side is taking the reporter out for drinks.

    No one will lament its demise.

  • d.lake on November 07, 2011 10:25 PM:

    What is sad to me is the loss of depth, nuance and substance.
    I embrace the hit and run of the internet and blogs. I love them.
    But, we are losing the ability to take the time to read and understand complex problems and policies, ect.
    there needs to be a way that we can have the speed and fun and short remarks and stories that the internet is about and still retain areas for the indepth, the complex and the nuance that we as a society need to hold on to in order to understand the world and our own politics, policies and how things work and why.