Alex Pareene's Super Hack List: Politico, The Washington Post, Newsweek
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You hire Tina Brown because she knows “everyone,” and knowing “everyone” translates into “buzz,” which never quite translates into “profit” or “increased circulation.” In Tina Brown’s Newsweek, friends fawningly profiled their famous friends, who were also friends of Tina’s. Other friends were allowed to write stories so incredibly misleading that other outlets took it upon themselves to perform basic fact-checks. Then that friend’s wife trolled every Muslim in the world.
The covers listed up top, asparagus lady and company, were just sad attempts to add some sex appeal to forgettable stories. The real worst Newsweek covers trolled even harder inside the magazine than on the front. The real crime of the Niall Ferguson cover — I mean, besides all the dishonesty and the fact that Ferguson believes and says awful and stupid things, professionally, for a living — is that it could have actually been a smart, honest piece about why Obama didn’t deserve to be reelected. The crime of the awful “MUSLIM RAGE” piece was that it didn’t actually explain anything about the Muslim world and truly had nothing whatsoever to do with its supposed news hook.
Newsweek had a huge staff of smart and talented reporters and writers — a huge staff of talented people is one reason they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars every week! — who could have written thoughtful pieces adding context and original reporting to the subjects Brown planned to splash on the cover. She still could have put all the sexy ladies and “provocative” cover lines she wanted on the front, to move copies at the newsstand. But Brown’s instinct instead was to get her attention-starved hack friends to write bullshit designed to infuriate thinking people and deceive readers. She got the conversation started, and the fact that the conversation, each time, was mostly variations on “this story is horrible” didn’t at all matter. As is usually the case in media and politics, Brown and Ferguson and Buzz Bissinger will land on their feet, while all the staffers not actually responsible for killing the magazine look for new work.
In a long interview with Michael Kinsley, Brown absolves herself of responsibility for Newsweek’s death, saying the magazine had “an unfixable infrastructure and a set of challenges that really would have required five years in an up economy to solve.” The interview is in a recent issue of New York, a successful general interest magazine that prints weekly.