The news that the Washington Post Company is selling off Newsweek is the most shocking development in the media world since the cancellation of Buggy Whip Monthly. The magazine’s editor, Jon Meacham, has been making the media rounds, explaining why it’s not his fault. If you don’t recognize his name, don’t worry. Nobody remembers who the captain of the Titanic was either.
Here’s Meacham’s lively, vibrant appearance on last night’s Daily Show:
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“I do not believe that Newsweek is the only catcher in the rye between democracy and ignorance, but I think we’re one of them. And I don’t think there are that many on the edge of that cliff.”
A Catcher in the Rye reference? Now it can be told: Jon Meacham killed Newsweek to impress Jodie Foster.
It’s magnanimous of Meacham to allow the possibility that you might not be an ignorant drone just because you don’t read his magazine. Hey, maybe you just have enough pictures of Obama already. The guy is everywhere. Why pay six bucks for something you can get just by living in America and turning your head 15 degrees in any direction?
Or how about this nugget of Meachamian wisdom from later in the interview:
“I feel incredibly strongly that this magazine — for 77 years and unto this hour, I believe — has mattered to the life of the country. It’s one of the very few common denominators in a fragmented world.”
It’s true. No matter where you go, no matter who you talk to — black, white, yellow, red, liberal, conservative, socialist, anarchist, doctor, lawyer, plumber, trucker, Tucker — they all have a common denominator. One thing that brings them all together. One thing upon which they can all agree:
They don’t read Newsweek.
But hey, nobody can say Meacham isn’t putting his money where his mouth is. Well, somebody’s money. According to the New York Observer:
Newsweek is up for sale, and editor Jon Meacham is going to explore the possibility of rounding up some bidders to buy the magazine himself…
He said he had two voicemails from “two billionaires” after the news was announced this morning that The Washington Post Company was going to try to sell the magazine. He said he had not called them back…
“We have to figure out what journalism is going to be as the old business model collapses all around us,” said Mr. Meacham. “And I want to be–I want to try to be–a part of that undertaking.”
You are, Jon. Every culture needs its cautionary tales.
Finally, Howard Kurtz takes a look back to those halcyon days of May 2009:
Almost exactly one year ago, Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham was telling me that deliberately cutting its circulation in half — from what had been a high of 3.1 million to 1.5 million — would not destroy the money-losing magazine. He and his staff had decided to go upscale. The question, he said, involved advertisers: “Will they accept a more affluent Newsweek demographic, given that they’ve been acculturated all these years to think of us as a mass vehicle?” The answer is now apparent.
Yes? Wait. No. The answer is no, right?
P.S. If you think that was too harsh, you haven’t read Michael Wolff yet:
Jon Meacham, Newsweek’s editor, failed woefully. Meacham, while only 41, is a perfect example of media insularity and self-congratulation. He’s a turgid, flaccid, and suicidally boring writer (that is, it’s the reader who wants to do himself in) who somehow came to represent high-mindedness and got heaped with awards. Positively reinforced, he turned Newsweek into a turgid, flaccid, dead-on-arrival magazine that was much more like a corporate annual report than a spiffy newsmagazine.
Whew! No word yet on Meacham’s mother’s choice of footwear.