Posted on | August 3, 2010 | 20 Comments
To cite one obvious example: newsweeklies annually marked Christian holidays with a cover story on a religious theme, always respectful and sometimes celebratory in tone. . . . The new Newsweek, by contrast, published holiday issues that any good secular journalist would like to read. One issue near Christmas offered a long and fallacious cover story on “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage.” Easter came and the magazine feted “The End of Christian America.” Pieces like this weren’t so much a challenge to traditionally religious readers as a declaration of war. Why not just put a bullet in the Easter Bunny while you’re at it?
Then again, there was the infamous “Is Your Baby Racist?” cover story, an excerpt from the book Nurture Shock — a chapter titled “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race” — with the authors promising that “the piece is just beginning of our dialogue on race: we’ll be continuing the conversation with related posts on kids and race relations all this week. We’re very excited about this, and we can’t wait for you to join us.”
Apparently, readers were somewhat less excited about this “dialogue” and, whatever the value of the Nurture Shock blog to sales of the book, its value to Newsweek seems to have been negligible. This was typical of the self-indulgently unbusinesslike decisions that Meacham made. At a time when Internet competition is teaching news organizations everywhere the virtues of running “lean and mean,” Meacham maintained a full-time staff of more than 350.
Jeff Poor at Newsbusters observes that the self-indulgent editor’s self-indulgent publisher Donald Graham, in selling the magazine to the wealthy husband of Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), signified that he didn’t have a clue of what had gone wrong:
“Graham felt comfortable with Harman’s centrist politics, and was comforted by the idea of selling to a stalwart of the Washington establishment. . . . Harman is expected to preserve the serious-minded, essentially New-Democratic tone [outgoing Newsweek editor Jon] Meacham set for the magazine.”
Never mind the idiocy of this definition of “centrist politics.” What about the absurd notion that Newsweek needs “a stalwart of the Washington establishment” as its publisher? What about the dubious proposition that Meacham’s “serious-minded” approach is worth preserving? Does it never occur to these people that perhaps doing more of what caused the failure might lead to more failure?
At this historic moment, let’s not forget how the “serious-minded” Newsweek editors managed to blow Michael Isikoff’s exclusive on the Monica Lewinsky scandal:
At the last minute, at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, NEWSWEEK magazine killed a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundation: A White House intern carried on a sexual affair with the President of the United States!
The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that reporter Michael Isikoff developed the story of his career, only to have it spiked by top NEWSWEEK suits hours before publication.
That’s the kind of stupidity it took to turn a once-important magazine into a $1 property. Ed Driscoll wonders “how much worse can it get?”