It’s hardly a secret that both Time and Newsweek have become much more polemical and openly liberal in order to cut costs and stay relevant. Newsgathering can be expensive. Weekly newsmagazines are disadvantaged in a 24 news environment. In and of itself, I have no problem with news organizations becoming more opinionated. Publications are not honor-bound to go out of business clinging to outdated business models. Still, the transformation does illuminate some things.
First, it demonstrates that mainstream reportorial and editorial staffs were always exactly as liberal as conservatives said they were. If mainstream journalists were as objective as they always claimed, you’d think that at least some of them would reveal themselves to be conservative once it became acceptable for them to express their biases openly. And, yet, time and again whenever “objective” reporters are permitted to let their hair down and express their opinions it turns out — surprise! — that they were liberals all along. For example, with possibly one exception (John Tierney’s short-lived column), every time The New York Times gives an opinion column to one of its reporters, they reveal themselves to be a perfectly conventional liberals or leftwingers (off the top of my head: Maureen Dowd, Anthony Lewis, Bill Keller, Thomas Friedman)
Read the cover story, “We’re All Socialists Now” by Evan Thomas and Jon Meacham in the latest Newsweek, and you’ll see what I mean. Amidst the analysis, there’s a certain — totally predictable — tone of celebration.
When Time magazine ran it’s gushing, wish-it-were-so, cover story about Obama’s “New New Deal,” they asked Peter Beinart to write it. I don’t mean this as a slight at Peter, but it’s hardly as if they tapped him to write an objective news story.
Which brings me to another point. While I have no problem with Time and Newsweek becoming better funded and “newsier” versions of The New Republic, I do think they have an obligation to be honest about it. These are now reported opinion magazines, more reported than TNR or NR, but not that much less opinionated. The difference is that The New Republic and National Review admit their biases and let the readers make their own judgments. Time and Newsweek want it both ways. Or at least that’s how it seems to me.
Correction: an earlier version had John Tierney’s first name wrong.
Update: A reader ads:
I totally agree with your view that Newsweek and Time are opinion magazines masquerading as newsmagazines, but I had my epiphany just out of high school in 1976 when I noticed that the final “analysis” paragraph of every Newsweek story had a liberal slant, even when the facts contained in the story above suggested the opposite. I canceled our family subscription and then explained it to my folks. None of us have subscribed since.