Jon Meacham, Newsweek's current editor, has been visiting talk shows since the Washington Post Co. announced it was giving up on the magazine, which it's owned for almost half a century, and hoping someone else might be willing to take it on. Meacham has mostly been saying that what's happened to the magazine isn't his fault. His defense is that he did the best he could and, given the state of the media business, nobody could've done much better. The fates just weren't with him.
Meacham might be right. But his approach, to turn Newsweek into a middle-brow thumb sucker, reminiscent of Norman Cousins' Saturday Review -- a magazine that went belly up several generations ago -- seems, in hindsight, more a determined last stand for a specific journalism class than a concerted and hard-headed business proposition.
Here, for instance, are just a few of the much more obvious ideas for how the magazine might have been given a fighting chance:
1) Hire Adam Moss, New York magazine's editor, whose talent is information design and packaging. That's what a newsmagazine is supposed to be -- a form that makes the news easily consumable. If anything in print could give the web a run for its money, Moss's compartmentalizations, graphic delineations, and bite-sizations, might have.
2) Do what The Week does -- and, for that matter, what Newser does -- provide a cheat-sheet of everybody else's news. Actually, that's what newsmagazines did in their original incarnation. They summarized, digested, aggregated. What's more, recognizing the new economic realities of publishing, Newsweek could have done this with far fewer people.
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