Home Editorial Demise of Newsweek’s print edition: A self-inflicted wound


Demise of Newsweek’s print edition: A self-inflicted wound Print E-mail
Friday, 26 October 2012 13:58

The report that Newsweek magazine will go all-digital as of the end of 2012 and abandon its print format made headlines this week. But the demise should come as no surprise.


What the buzz over that announcement did not mention was that the management decision a while back to name Tina Brown as editor-in-chief radically changed the news magazine and led to its precipitous decline among readership.


Newsweek’s demise was a self-inflicted wound.


Brown, as many readers know, was the former Cosmopolitan editor who was brought in to remake the venerable magazine into something more hip, more up to date, more trendy. Her approach to this challenge included introducing stories which prominently featured four-letter words for the first time in a general circulation magazine. She also completely did away with any pretense of objectivity in news coverage or analysis, abandoning the magazine’s strong journalistic heritage dating back eight decades. Under Brown’s direction, Newsweek became in effect a propaganda tool for the Democratic Party. While she had every right to make these editorial decisions in a country which celebrates freedom of the press, as a strategy for preserving and/or growing Newsweek’s readership, the moves were suicidal.


Circulation plummeted not only among Republicans, as might be expected, but among readers of both parties – and neither party – who did not care to have their children, or for that matter themselves, subjected to the coarser, often blatantly amoral view of life championed by Brown and the authors she chose to include in the magazine’s pages.


It is not that Americans are naïve enough to believe that some people don’t use coarse language or live amoral lives; it is just that a good many of us prefer not to see these unfortunate realities celebrated in our news magazines. A good many of us are also not interested in paying the price of a subscription to bring such in-your-face coarseness into our living rooms for display on the coffee table in front of our children and grandchildren. Since Newsweek will continue in a digital format with a sizeable if reduced circulation, Brown and her management cohorts will probably not even give the demise of the print version a second thought. But in doing so, they effectively write off the thousands upon thousands of American households who have never subscribed to a digital publication – and never will.


It is unfortunate that hundreds of good people will lose their jobs at Newsweek as the magazine, in abandoning the print format, will require fewer employees. These staffers deserve our sympathy. But it is hard to feel too much sympathy for the magazine itself. No matter how much a part of American life it has been to so many among us for so long, Newsweek, by changing its editorial stance so radically, chose to abandon thousands of its readers long before those readers chose to abandon it in turn by canceling their subscriptions.


— Lou Jacquet/Editor


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