"Hey Dad! Great news! My report card grades are half of what they were last term!"
And just before my father would have smacked me upside my head for being so absurd, I would have quickly pointed out that the editor of Newsweek, Jon Meacham, is celebrating the fact that his magazine's circulation is being cut in half. Of course, back when I was a kid Newsweek at least made an attempt to be balanced and no magazine editor in his right mind would have been happy about such a drastic decline in circulation. However, that is exactly what Meacham is doing as reported in the Washington Post by Howard Kurtz:
Jon Meacham admits it is hard to explain, even to his own people, why chopping Newsweek's circulation in half is a good thing.
"It's hugely counterintuitive," the magazine's editor says. "The staff doesn't understand it."
And neither does any rational human being. But Meacham's reasoning gets even more bizarre:
...Newsweek, whose circulation was as high as 3.1 million in recent years, plans to cut that to 1.5 million by the beginning of 2010, in part by discouraging renewals. The magazine will begin charging the average subscriber about 90 cents an issue, nearly double the current rate.
Great business plan there, Jon. Discourage renewals. Here are some details on Meacham's "brilliant" plan:
"If we can't convince a million and a half people we're worth less than a dollar a week, the market will have spoken," Meacham says. The newsstand price will also jump from $4.95 to $5.95, a buck more than Time.
Having failed at the previous price, Meacham now strives for "success" by nearly doubling the subscription price. Perhaps, when Newsweek folds, he should apply to become an economics adviser for the current administration. However, Meacham is on a comedy roll so let him continue his laugh routine:
The new layout, with larger photographs, splits each issue into four parts: Scope (News, Scoops and the Globe at a Glance); Features; The Take (What We Think About the World); and The Culture. Meacham, an admirer of the Economist, is fashioning a serious magazine for what he calls his base, with a heavy emphasis on politics and public policy.
His "base" being fellow liberals, although Meacham doesn't like to admit it. The entertainment continues with some psychobabble comedy:
Time, with a circulation of 3.25 million, will sell more than twice as many copies. Meacham says he wants to get away from the "Cold War metaphor" of Time vs. Newsweek, insisting that "we live in an age of asymmetrical warfare."
It's a little tough to be in a cold war with Time if both magazines are the Soviets. However, with the way things are going, if Time were to be the U.S.A. that means that Newsweek is auditioning for the role of Bangladesh (h/t: Tim Graham).
Despite Meacham's protests that he has no political ax to grind, Kurtz is under no such illusions as you can see in this classic piece of understatement:
The ideas that Newsweek is promoting are mainly left-of-center. The cover story in today's issue is a generally sympathetic interview with President Obama, written by Meacham, that describes Obama "moving as he wishes to move, and the world bending to him." An accompanying piece by Tina Brown on Nancy Pelosi -- who's just endured her worst week as House speaker over the waterboarding controversy -- calls her "fast-talking, formidable, high-energy and supremely self-confident."
"Mainly left-of-center?" Far left bordering on loony, considering that wacky defense of Pelosi, is a more accurate description. Even more funny is when Newsweek presented the "conservative" viewpoint...attacking Rush Limbaugh:
When Newsweek put a conservative's essay on the cover, it was by David Frum, assailing Rush Limbaugh under the headline "Why Rush Is Wrong."
And now for the Jon Meacham money quote punchline:
Meacham sees only a perception problem. "In making arguments," he says, "we have to make sure people don't believe we're partisan."
Gee! How could we ever get such a crazy idea that Newsweek is partisan?
Apparently many of the readers of this article don't seem to appreciate Meacham's ideas as you can see in the comments section:
They expect people to pay $5.95 an issue for week old news. Ha! Daily newspapers are folding because people consider news that's 24 hours old to be stale.
Sorry but your application to become a Newsweek editor has been rejected because you make too much sense.