TIME and Newsweek the Coke and Pepsi of weekly print journalism

Two very different writers, the one a liberal icon, the other, a relative unknown commentator writing on antiwar.com, a blog owned by right-wing (with libertarian leanings), journalist, Justin Raimondo, see eye to eye on one thing, and that is the quality of the widely-read weekly news magazines, Time and Newsweek.

In an article ostensibly about Newsweek’s obituary of his great enemy, William F. Buckley, Gore Vidal, perhaps America’s greatest man of letters (a position previously occupied in many people’s estimation by Norman Mailer), dismisses Newsweek as lousy. The noted author and essayist says:

I can recall that day in the 1930s when a “news” (sic) magazine appeared in Washington, D.C.; it was called Newsweek: meant to be a counterbalance to Time Magazine’s uncontrollable malice. In due course the two became sadly alike as Vincent Astor morphed into Henry Luce: Was it something in the water? I once asked Henry Luce why he called Time a news magazine when it was simply Uncle Harry’s means of venting his rage (this was 1960 or so) at liberals, and “degenerate art” like the plays of Tennessee Williams—he had no answer. At Newsweek Vincent Astor was far too stupid to answer any such complaint. Now here we are in the Newsweek of 2008, and it’s still lousy. There have been a few decent writers in between that were less nutty than today’s Newsweek hacks.

Writing on antiwar.com, Werther says:

It has long since come to universal notice that Time and Newsweek, the Coke and Pepsi of weekly print journalism, have slid to the level of what were once considered lowbrow publications like People and Entertainment Weekly. Needless to say, these latter two journals threaten to assume the Darwinian niche previously occupied by the lamented Weekly World News. So where does a reader of more elevated tastes seek enlightenment?

Many people who aspire at least to a middling rung in the American establishment would instantly reach for The Economist. No doubt its editorial line would soothe the prejudices of the ruling class, both senior and apprentice, for its hectoring monomania about free trade suffuses every leader, article, and book review the magazine has ever published. It is also British, a real plus for our Anglophile proconsuls in training. Its only failing is that it lacks an insider’s knowledge of the workings of the American governmental machinery.

That deficiency is corrected by two publications that are little known outside the Capitol Beltway: the staid, magisterial Congressional Quarterly and its slightly breezier cousin, National Journal. [1]


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