I’ve been a subscriber to Newsweek for the past 5 years. In the middle of my college years I decided that I needed some way of accessing the news since we didn’t have televisions in our dorms and internet news wasn’t what it is today. If I were able to get a quick snapshot of the week’s news that would be a huge help to me to actually know what’s going on and not feel like I was on an island when it came to current events. Though they’re a pretty liberal publication, I’ve enjoyed having their print edition delivered to me on a weekly basis. It’s been a good way to inform my mind as well as challenge me to be discerning with what’s happening in our world and what people think about it. Obviously (and this is true in general) the news isn’t just simple, objective information anymore. It’s an account of the incident, event, person, idea with commentary by the writer on not just what happened, but how and why. So with that in mind, Newsweek has challenged me to think on my own two feet and not always take the author’s opinions or analysis as fact, but to discern for myself what the issues are.
Unfortunately, with their continued liberal swing it’s been a conversation between my wife and I whether we should continue to pay for their publication. But Newsweek actually helped us make that decision with the publication of their cover story a few weeks back called “Gay Marriage: Our Mutual Joy” The article — which started a lot of conversations among Evangelicals — attempted to argue that the Bible doesn’t teach against gay marriage and those who believe it does may have missed something. I heard about the article before my Newsweek even arrived in my mailbox and upon reading it I realized what all the talk was about — it wasn’t really a news article, it was an opinion piece. Essentially, it was one writer’s opinion on what the Bible says about gay marriage and it really wasn’t well researched. In fact, I would say it was more like a fancy blog post from a professional writer’s website. Nevertheless, for a cover piece it was pretty unfortunate and we decided that wouldn’t renew our subscription to Newsweek. It’s with that in mind that I thought what I read this morning was so interesting.
I came across a New York Times article yesterday titled “Newseek Plans Makeover to Fit a Smaller Audience.” Basically, they are going to re-brand themselves from the inside out by focusing on opinion pieces as opposed to current events, changing the paper type of their printed version, and in general refocus their style and brand to fit their core readers who News claims “…are its best-educated, most avid consumers of news, and who have higher incomes than the average reader.” More than anything, I thought this tidbit from the Times article was telling (my emphasis in bold):
Starting in May, articles will be reorganized under four broad, new sections — one each for short takes, columnists and commentary, long reporting pieces like the cover articles, and culture — each with less compulsion to touch on the week’s biggest events. A new graphic feature on the last page, “The Bluffer’s Guide,” will tell readers how to sound as if they are knowledgeable on a current topic, whether they are or not.
Newsweek is going to teach it’s core, “best-educated” subscribers to fake it. All I can say is: awesome [strong sarcasm]. That’s just what those subscribers want, a cheap way out. Maybe I’m assuming too much, but I would think if I were a higher educated subscriber of Newsweek’s magazine — not to mention a reader — then I’m probably going to take that concept as a hit to my intelligence. Furthermore, the whole change in general is kind of bizzare. For a magazine to go from a sixty six year history of providing the weekly news to an all out opinion piece is pretty sad commentary of our times. I read that as “stop telling them what’s happening and let them think about it for themselves” to “we’ll tell them what we think and how they should think.” I fear that their writing will now become like the gay marriage article I mentioned above, as opposed to a well-researched, balanced jounralism. Change is good, that’s a fact. I understand that weekly news is a little hard to deliver these days as people get the news very quickly. And Newsweek may be having it’s share of struggles as a news company — many are, but this doen’t mean they need to throw their own history out the window and reduce their publication to a bunch of opinions.