NEWSWEEK and Journalism’s Burdens

I've said it before: I haven't been a big fan of NEWSWEEK since Tina Brown became its editor; still, it's better now than the royal mess it was. Its limitations remain those of a society with a thirty-second attention span and a blogosphere with cranky, sensationalistic rants.

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Why do I read it? For the occasional good article. That good one comes, in the June 27, 2011, issue, in the form of an op-ed piece by former Prez Bill Clinton. One never knows, but I suspect Clinton wrote this piece (It's Still The Economy, Stupid) himself. It has all the bubbly optimism and down to earth assaying he's always been known for. In this piece, he lays out what he believes are 14 ways to "put America back to work." Nine of his talking points are no-brainers, the others need the concise explanation Clinton gives. In the end, he's still thinking like a president, not an ex-prez. 

On the down side, NEWSWEEK gives us an article (The Triple Agent) that promises an inside scoop on the suicide bomber attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan in 2009 that killed seven CIA operatives. The writing here is skillful; it opens as if a real-life, suspense novel look at this attack. We do get an eyeful of the perp – Humam al-Balawi. Otherwise we get little more than we could have GOOGLED a year later. 

Journalism, even the weekly kind, has to bear the burden of a reading audience that wants only the bottom line, and wants it NOW! NEWSWEEK, TIME, and U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT have survived as weeklies because they follow journalistic trends. Hopefully, now they can lead a trend back to objective journalism that informs, not titillates.

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