James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Posts Tagged ‘Tina Brown’

‘Newsweak’: Plug pulled on comatose print magazine

Posted by James McPherson on October 19, 2012

Tina Brown has something else to swear about. Finally, mercifully, the once-proud print version of Newsweek will be allowed to die just short of its 80th birthday.

The magazine’s demise is no surprise. After all, the entire hemorrhaging operation sold two years ago for less than the cost of a single issue (one dollar), and then folks began refusing even free subscriptions because of an odd combination of controversialoutdated, lazy and juvenile editorial choices made by Brown and other editors in an apparent attempt to avoid the collapse.

So Brown will have another failure; sadder, more journalists will be out of work. Not that Brown didn’t try, apparently–like almost everyone else, she just happens to be clueless about how to make old-line media survive in a new media world. As noted by the New York Times, “Despite her best efforts to take a flagging product and rejuvenate it, much of what she tried fell flat, and her attempts to create buzz with cover articles that discussed sex addiction and called President Obama ‘the first gay president’ resulted mostly in puzzlement and, sometimes, ridicule.”

I remember having the same puzzled reaction to the first issue of another short-lived Brown project, Talk magazine. Launched with huge fanfare, the magazine was a disappointment from the start. That first issue (shown above, and I have a copy in my office) carried interviews of First Lady Hillary Clinton and presidential candidate George W. Bush, but highlighted glossy photos of Gwyneth Paltrow crawling across the floor in what appears to be black underwear.

Print magazines are not dead, as any visit to a bookstore or supermarket will show. But old “news” doesn’t sell in an internet age, and people interested in longer more literate analysis have a host of better magazines from which to choose.

Though I’m not sure it matters, perhaps the online version of Newsweek will hang around for a while, as U.S. News & World Report has since going entirely online (except for occasional special editions) at the end of last year. And with less competition, perhaps Time will have less reason to run stupid covers.

Posted in History, Journalism, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Now I’m part of ‘profanity police’

Posted by James McPherson on February 14, 2012

At the bottom of my most recent post, I noted a couple of days ago that New York Times media writer Elizabeth Jensen cited that post in an article. Her embedded link brought more than 3,300 readers to this blog yesterday–more than double the previous record (from a few years ago when a link to a post appeared at the bottom of a CNN story. That’s also more readers than I get most months, since I gave up blogging almost daily in April 2009.

Not surprisingly, among the new readers were some folks who found fault–including one who apparently didn’t read my post very closely, let alone anything else I’ve written, since in a comment he referred to my comments as “right wing.” That made some of my conservative friends chuckle. And now the Atlantic Wire blog  and the liberal blog Con Games, among others, are apparently lumping Jensen and me in together with the “profanity police.”

“McPherson may be shocked to discover that movie stars ‘come across as a group of hormonal middle school students’ as the foul-mouthed bunch did in the magazine’s Oscar Roundtable, that may just be because he hasn’t spent enough time on set,” offers Con Games. And that’s certainly true, if by “not enough” one means “none.”

But of course I’m not terribly surprised by the juvenile behavior–just that Newsweek writer David Ansen seemed to be so enthralled by that behavior. Maybe Ansen hasn’t spent enough time on sets if he is so fascinated by such juvenile pap. I’ll repeat my previous quote: “I have no doubt that the stars used that language. I do doubt that it’s representative of how most of them behave most of the time. If so, let’s hope they stick to acting–they’re just not very interesting, if this is a realistic depiction.”

In fact, previous editions of Newsweek’s “Oscar Roundtable” can easily be found online. And while I won’t take the time to check right now, I’d be willing to bet that none of them–despite the fact that they, too, involve “movie stars”–include the amount of profanity found in the most recent version. In fact, the “new” Newsweek is the problem. And perhaps, according to the blogs, it’s a Tina Brown problem. Both blogs contain this profanity-landen quote (I don’t know which is the original source):

“Tina Brown watchers with long memories might recall a similar complaint dogging the editor after she took over The New Yorker in 1992. On the occasion of her one year anniversary at the helm of that magazine, Spy Magazine ran an item headlined ‘Fuck Yes, The New Yorker,’ that compared some of the words that appeared in The New Yorker before and after Brown took over. Among the words used under Robert Gottlieb, the magazine’s previous editor: ‘Intransigent,’ ‘avuncular,’ ‘ballyhooed,’ and ‘panoply.’ Among the words used under Brown: ‘fuck,’ ‘masturbatory soft porn,’ ‘warm piss,’ ‘fart,’ and ‘bitch.’”

I can’t say that I’ve ever been as big a fan of Brown as many other media watchers, and a previous much-ballyhooed Brown effort, Talk, was awful and blessedly short-lived. I do appreciate her occasional book reviews on NPR’s “Morning Edition”–which, perhaps ironically, I listen to on the same radio station that provided my “free” subscription to Newsweek.

Same-day follow-up: The “others” who have commented on this issue, with links to this blog, now include a New York magazine blog, the conservative Accuracy in Media, a blog titled “Caffeinated Politics,” and another seemingly liberal media blog from Bemidji, Minn.

Feb. 16: Mediabistro, an American University blog about public media, and many in the Twitterverse also have commented on the issue. Perhaps my favorite from the latter: One that quotes Sarah Palin to seemingly compare me to GOP contraception goofballs.

Posted in Media literacy | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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