Not goodbye to a person today but to an institution. Newsweek magazine went all digital with its last print magazine publication on Dec 31.
All future installments of Newsweek can be read only on an IPad, Kindle, computer or phone. And so, a newsmagazine that has been informing us since the presidency of Herbert Hoover has passed away, or at least been reincarnated.
I will not be a subscriber to the new digital version. I read my newsmagazines in my library and I don't have a Kindle or an IPad to take with me. And even if I did, I still don't think I would. There's something personal involved when you hold pages in your hand, turning them one by one or skipping to other articles that pique your interest, as opposed to swiping screens on an electronic device. This is something young people do with speed and passion but I didn't catch their enthusiasm. So I guess, in that regard, I'm an old school guy. Because of that, I've read my last issue of Newsweek.
The decision they made to do this was not shocking; in fact it's been a long time in coming. Newsweek was flailing and failing two years ago when tycoon Sidney Harman bought it from the Washington Post Corporation for one dollar in a hopeless bid to salvage the magazine. Joe Klein had already written a column about the taken-for-granted demise of the magazine in Time. Many changes were made in an attempt to revitalize the magazine, the most controversial being the hiring of Tina Brown and the Daily Beast news site to take it over. Brown's leadership was quixotic and controversial and, in the end, did little to save the magazine from its demise.
From a technological perspective, the move makes sense. It's the same thing many newspapers are doing nationwide because of steadily declining print sales. It's one this newspaper will eventually do as well. Barbara Walters, commenting on a cover story Newsweek did on her in 1974, said that when she reread the article inside, it was three times longer than similar articles are today because of our shortened attention spans. The people still at Newsweek hope they will catch on digitally but I have my doubts. Few of the over-60 crowd will subscribe to a digital format and even among young people, the prognosis is poor. Even though in the last Presidential election, 19 percent of the electorate were young, compared to 18 percent in the previous election, that represents less than one-fifth of the total voting population.
I've read Newsweek and Time from cover to cover for as long as I can remember and have asked my college classes on occasion whether they read either one of the magazines too. The lack of hands raised in response to my question didn't surprise me. In fact, NO hands were raised. I then asked them how they find out about what's going on in the world and they said either from their friends or from social media. And we're all aware of the tremendous amount of misinformation spread on social media as the truth.
I advise them as I've advised my readers in this column to fact-check allegations before sending them on to others but few do, despite the repeated admonitions to do so. That's because almost everyone enjoys gossip, especially if it plays to our own biases and prejudices as most gossip does.
In anticipation of Newsweek going viral exclusively, in the past month I've re-subscribed to The Week magazine and most likely will re-subscribe to U.S. News and World Report as well so I can have different perspectives on the same stories. I had that with Time and Newsweek but now I don't.
And I think the awareness and, eventually, the intelligence of the average American will suffer because of it.