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October 18, 2012 10:04 AM Out-Of-Print

By Ed Kilgore

In the least surprising media news of the year, NewsBeast honcho Tina Brown announced that the print edition of Newsweek would cease publication at the end of the year. After a wave of layoffs aimed at staunching the overall operation’s massive operating losses, the brand will somehow be preserved online.

I guess those of us of a certain age ought to wax nostalgic about Newsweek’s demise as a print publication. I am in fact old enough to remember when Newsweek and Time (and to a lesser extent, U.S. News and World Report) were how smart and civically engaged regular folk outside Megalopolis got regular doses of national news and commentary. This was long before you could spot those blue New York Times bags on suburban lawns across the country, and long before cable news and even Talk Radio. And it’s obviously a business model and a slice of media culture that makes little or no sense today.

Print media can and will survive fulfilling different market niches; maybe daily locally-focused news in some ad-rich markets; and deep-reporting and/or opinion journalism nationally. But the News Weekly, once an urgently needed product that helped keep the “brow” in “middle-brow,” can’t quite sustain itself as something you only read while cooling your heels at the doctor’s office.

I’d get really sad about it if the impending funeral of Newsweek-as-we-know-it wasn’t happening at such a crowded journalistic graveyard. A lot of fine publishing traditions will continue to check out in the near future, and it’s a shame we won’t have the print edition of Newsweek to mark all the “Transitions.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • DAY on October 18, 2012 10:12 AM:

    The name says it all:
    Now we have "NewsMinute", and it don't need no stinkin' dead trees to get to our in- box.

  • Robb on October 18, 2012 10:22 AM:

    I already mourned the detah of Newsweek when she took it over. After her first few issues, I decided not to resubscribe.

    If Newsweek needed her style to survive, it was better off dead.

  • Pat Kelly on October 18, 2012 10:25 AM:

    Have you read Newsweek lately? In the last couple of months we've had a vulgar cover (asparagus spears dangling over the open mouth of a prone woman); an error-ridden story about the President, which forced the admission that the magazine doesn't do fact-checkers; and on up to the latest cover story about heaven. Seriously? Even if newsweeklies were still important sources of information, Newsweek has had no real news value for quite awile.

  • Martin on October 18, 2012 10:29 AM:

    I can even remember when Time and Newsweek had a specific politics. Time was rabidly anti-communist so Newsweek seemed liberal by comparison. Living overseas in the era before the internet, Time was the main source of information for American ex-patriots which gave us the impression that the US was more conservative than it was.

  • c u n d gulag on October 18, 2012 10:38 AM:

    Jyazoos H. Keerist, reading the Old Testament on a papyrus scroll.

    Iím old enough to remember the days when Life, Look, Time, and Newsweek, were all important if you wanted to get a good grasp of what has happening in the country Ė AND the world.

    Life and Look died out as TV became more and more entrenched in our country.

    Now, with Cable TV, and especially the internet, Time and Newsweek are both about as useful as mammaries on a male bovine.

    And Tina Brown seems to me to be some female version of George W. Bush - in that anything either one of them touches seems to turn to shite.

  • schtick on October 18, 2012 10:40 AM:

    Ah, back in the day with real journalists and real research for indepth stories of people, politics and places. I let my subscriptions go when it appeared to be all politics and both mags were almost word for word the same. And the letters to the editor changed and seemed to be from the same trolls that post on political blogs, with no substance and only name calling. Very uninformed and very boring.
    The demise of newspapers and print magazines are also behind the demise of real journalists.

  • T2 on October 18, 2012 10:42 AM:

    progress marches on.

  • sjw on October 18, 2012 10:42 AM:

    I started reading Newsweek in 1965 -- my 8th grade English teacher pushed it on us and I was hooked. It became my go-to place for world and national news for decades. But about 10 years ago I gave up on it. The editor at the time, John Meacham, implemented his supposedly transformational idea of what the magazine ought to be; in my view, he put the bullet in the head, and its been on life support ever since. RIP. (P.S. If you want a great newsweekly, read the Economist. It's way better than Newsweek ever was.)

  • Daniel Kim on October 18, 2012 10:48 AM:

    I'm afraid I must agree with some of the commenters here. Newsweek may once have been a respectable news magazine, but it has become a shadow of its older self. Between "heaven" and "rage", it looks more and more like the National Enquirer. The phrase "wouldn't wrap fish with it" comes to mind.

  • reidmc on October 18, 2012 11:06 AM:

    The only bad thing about this announcement is that Newsweek will continue online.

  • deanarms on October 18, 2012 11:07 AM:

    I gave up my subscription to Newsweek earlier this year after a nearly 30 year run. Tina's experiments, especially with conservative hacks like Niall Ferguson, trying to freshen up the brand had the opposite effect. They made it cringe-worthy. I guess this is the destiny Newsweek faced regardless -- getting week old news is not the treat it once was in today's environment -- but Tina didn't help. Considering the wonders she worked with Vanity Fair and New Yorker, this flop (and Daily Beast's marginal relevance) makes it clear that her time has passed.

  • castanea on October 18, 2012 11:08 AM:

    Most of the "journalism" available to the common, unspecialized reader these days is junk--witness the AP/Yahoo garbage on the Yahoo home page. Newsweek and Time have become just as laden with garbage as any grocery store tabloid.

    Which is sad because with the advent of the Internet, I hoped the electorate would become better informed, rather than overly misinformed.

    My guess is that the crash of decent journalism in the U.S. will rate at least a chapter in the 22nd century tome "Decline and Fall of the American Empire."

  • deanarms on October 18, 2012 11:11 AM:

    I gave up my subscription to Newsweek earlier this year after a nearly 30 year run. Tina's experiments, especially with conservative hacks like Niall Ferguson, trying to freshen up the brand had the opposite effect. They made it cringe-worthy. I guess this is the destiny Newsweek faced regardless -- getting week old news is not the treat it once was in today's environment -- but Tina didn't help. Considering the wonders she worked with Vanity Fair and New Yorker, this flop (and Daily Beast's marginal relevance) makes it clear that her time has passed.

  • Varecia on October 18, 2012 11:16 AM:

    "...The demise of newspapers and print magazines are also behind the demise of real journalists..."
    I think that's about right.
    It's a shame the magazine lost what it had. One of my scientific illustrations accompanied a story published in Newsweek (and Popular Science) many years ago and it was a thrill for me at the time.

  • Lifelong Dem on October 18, 2012 11:18 AM:

    Okay, I'm old enough to remember when Time didn't even have bylines on stories.

    That said, I'm much more concerned about the slow death of daily newspapers in smaller cities. Springfield, IL is a city of slightly more than 100k population, and the local daily is a compendium of wire service copy, surface reporting by 2 or 3 staff members, and extensive high school sports coverage. Just waiting to see how the delivery of actual information of local import will be delivered as we go forward.

    The "loss" of Newsweek, especially the Tina Brown version, doesn't even register on my radar.

  • neil b on October 18, 2012 11:30 AM:

    Personally, I think that's sad. Newsweek carries that Tory intellectualized-Breitbartian hack Niall Ferguson, but most of it comes across about like MSNBC. Above all, please read and diseminate the huge, striking takedown of Romney's "job creation" vulture capitalism at Bain, by David Stockman in this week's issue.

  • Rand Careaga on October 18, 2012 12:35 PM:

    I've subscribed to Newsweek for years, but thought that after visibly declining under the editorship of noted God-botherer Jon Meacham, it had become a travesty and an embarrassment under Tina Brown. Starting with last year's "Diana at Fifty" cover story, incoming issues have gone directly from the mailbox to the recycling bin.

    Whatever was worthwhile in the magazine dwindled and died a long time ago. High time it was put down.

  • meady on October 18, 2012 12:43 PM:

    I gave up the weeklies (Time and Newsweek) some 10 years ago or more because at the time, neither was covering what I considered a huge important story. I don't even remember what was so important, but I do remember my disgust at the supposedly current events, news magazines weren't covering it and they did contain lots of gossip like People magazine. For almost 20 years, the Economist has been my go to weekly. Though it leans conservative (in evaluation of events), I have found it infinitely more informative. I do, however understand the overarching concern about the demise of journalism and really opportunities for journalist to exist and get the issues out. The amount of "credible" journalistic opportunities is shrinking at a surprising rate. In many ways I suppose it is yet another casualty of the divisive culture wars. The conservatives have nearly succeeded in creating this Media landscape where they can taint any and all sources that they don't like. They can rewrite history and discredit the outlets that call them on it. While I personally don't feel that Newsweek fall into this category (I think it sank long ago), I am very concerned about the future. Orwell's Minestry of Truth is rising...

  • jim filyaw on October 18, 2012 12:44 PM:

    once upon a time, i was a faithful reader of newsweek (in vietnam, it came in a special thin-paper version). now, it seems as sophomoric as playboy. i mourn for what was and has been gone for a generation. i won't miss what ms. brown publishes. nial ferguson and andrew sullivan as serious thinkers? jeeze, give me a break!

  • jim filyaw on October 18, 2012 1:24 PM:

    a short btw.

    while i was in the nam (67-68), i recall a story newsweek published (i can't recall the reporter's name) which asked the very pertinent question about why, while americans were dying in the field, south vietnam was being run as if it was on a peace time basis. only a minority of eligible young men were being conscripted. the obvious conclusion was embarrassing enough to get the reporter kicked out of the country. now, that was journalism.

  • Objective Dem on October 18, 2012 1:36 PM:

    I agree with the comments of others that Newsweek once was very good but recently has become dreadful. Don't forget the cover story of President Obama "the first gay president" They started to make Fox News look legit.

  • TomParmenter on October 18, 2012 2:26 PM:

    Newsweek was always an also-ran. Their cover story on Sputnik featured a close-up photo of the tip of a ballpoint pen.

  • Texas Aggie on October 18, 2012 3:20 PM:

    I have to agree with most of the commenters who say that losing Newsweek is no big loss. At one time, as mentioned, it was more liberal than Time, but now it sort of lost any cachet at all.

    And as for the Economist (sjw), I used to read that until I got sick of reading stuff that obviously wasn't true, like it is legal in the US to write off political donations, written by people who had no idea of what was going on. And their economic viewpoint is pretty much in line with the editorial page of the WSJ.

  • Roger Ailes on October 18, 2012 4:37 PM:

    Once Tina Brown hired Megan McArdle, it was only a matter of time.

  • gottacook on October 18, 2012 5:20 PM:

    Time may have been conservative, but it was Time that ran the November 1973 editorial "The President Should Resign," which seemed to me (at the time) to have a real impact - maybe because it was Time that published it. (PDF of the article can be seen at the Nixon Library site, the second link shown when you google the title.)

    Also, "sjw" wrote above that Meacham was the editor of Newsweek some 10 years ago, but it was actually much more recently (2006-2010). Nonetheless I agree his ideas didn't help.

  • navamske on October 18, 2012 9:25 PM:

    "After a wave of layoffs aimed at staunching the overall operationís massive operating losses"

    stanching

  • Krrid on October 18, 2012 11:49 PM:

    The demise of Newsweek may have begun with the bogus Hitler diaries.
    Remember "whether they are true or not, it hardly matters ..."