A meme here at Attytood over the last seven years has been the problems of daily newspapers in an Internet age. But if you think it's hard for a once-a-day print publication to stay relevant in a 24/7 world, then you need to multiple that struggle times-7 for America's newsmagazines. For the last decade, pundits have asked how these publications that ruled the media landscape in the mid-20th Century can survive in this kind of environment.
The only moderately satisfying answer is that publications like Time and Newsweek -- which have large staffs of enormously talented journalists -- can publish news and commentary on the Web in a timely fashion similar to Web-oriented sites like Slate or the Huffington Post. They do this and they do it OK, although like every "legacy media" outfit the revenue isn't sustaining as the big profits of the print monopoly era. But what can they do about the supposed raison d'etre of the whole enterprise -- that thinner-and-thinner gloosy thing that's on the newstand once a week.
Honestly? Nothing. The "weekly newsmagazine" is an oxymoron. There's just nothing about the news that has a "weekly" component to it anymore. At this point, the print editions of Time and Newsweek would need to do something truly remarkable and praiseworthy to justify their continued existence. Instead, they are going out like a tragically insane individual, stripping naked and running down the street yelling profanities at civil sociery.
Time had its meltdown -- with its much talked-about breast-feeding-a-3-year-old-mom-just-in-time-for-Mother's-Day cover that just tangentially related to the topic of overproductive moms. Over at Newsweek, you'd think they'd see this as a chance to brand themselves as the more serious and responsible rival. But this is 2012 -- what was I thinking? Instead, head honcho Tina Brown reportedly said -- and I'm not making this up -- "let the games begin."
Or maybe she said "game on." Or maybe she said in a Jamaican accent, "gay, mon."
You see the result: Newsweek's cover calling President Obama "America's first gay president" because -- like roughly half of all U.S. heterosexuals -- he now supports the idea of same-sex marriage. It reminds me of their famous 1964 cover calling Lyndon Johnson "the first black president" after he signed the Civil Rights Act. OK, I'm just kidding...they didn't do that in 1964. People would have thought such a cover was stupid and immature.
Of course, in the short run they'll probably sell a few extra copies with these shock covers. But at the expense of destroying a brand of top-notch journalism that it took 75 years to build up. And then what desperate ploy will they use to beg readers to pay attention? One can only imagine. Harry Truman said famously that it's a damn shame when anyone dies, and that will be no less true of Time and Newsweek.