Alex Pareene's Super Hack List: Politico, The Washington Post, Newsweek
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The Post opinion section exemplifies the most aggravating feature of the American punditocracy: that there are simply never any professional consequences for being constantly wrong or dishonest.
One shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, I know. But if Newsweek has taught me anything this year, it’s that death is not truly the end, because Heaven Is Real, According to Science.
Yes, that was an actual, for-real Newsweek cover this year: “Heaven Is Real.” It was the dumbest, probably, but not actually the worst. This year’s Newsweek covers also included naked bondage lady, and sexy lady about to fellate asparagus (a stock image that had also quite recently been used in at least two other magazines). There was “what if Princess Di was alive and my friend,” too, but that was from 2011.
Now, Newsweek is ending its existence as a print publication. It’s not the official end of Newsweek as a brand — they seem to want people to believe that they expect rational adults to pay money to read something claiming to be a digital version of Newsweek online — but the mass layoffs signal that it’s basically done as a major publication of any sort.
Here’s Brown defending those dumb covers, which were clearly the one part of the magazine she actually devoted her time to (to the annoyance of her staff):
“The magazine was incredibly moribund when we came in,” she said on Thursday. “It had taken so many knocks. We have been able to bring Newsweek back to relevance. I have always felt that the covers are about a conversation. The covers become a conversation starter.”
There are the limits of Tina Brownism laid bare. She didn’t save the magazine — it’s dead — but she did make it relevant again, by repeatedly printing awful covers that simply everyone talked about. Countless people are losing or have already lost their jobs at the magazine, sure, but America gained so many conversations!
Under the tenure of Brown’s predecessor, the insufferable Jon Meacham, Newsweek sought to distinguish itself as “the American Economist.” It turned out that there was not actually any demand for a second, inferior Economist, when we already had the regular version. But in retrospect we had no idea how good we had it back when Meacham was just repeatedly putting another “an historian ties the present moment to a past moment” essay on the cover of his pretentious but not actually smart version of Newsweek. Tina Brown’s Newsweek didn’t bore us, it just insulted us, loudly, each and every issue.
Brown, the legendary editor most famous for making the New Yorker print photographs sometimes, launched a website called the Daily Beast in 2008, with a bunch of money from famous rich person Barry Diller. Why anyone thought Brown, who does not understand the Internet, would be a good person to give a lot of money to to create a website, is well beyond me, but it is the sort of thing that makes sense if you are a rich person, I think. In 2010, other rich person Sidney Harmon bought Newsweek and then he and Diller decided to merge it with the Daily Beast and give it all to Tina Brown. At the time, Brown’s Daily Beast was losing Diller $10 million a year. Brown’s first move as the person in charge of Newsweek — an early example of the sort of brilliant decision-making that would define her tenure as person in charge of Newsweek — was to kill Newsweek.com and put all its content on TheDailyBeast.com, despite the fact that Newsweek.com had more than twice the traffic, not to mention 80 years’ worth of brand recognition.