Author: Ian Mariani
Newsweek will halt production of its print edition starting December 31 of this year after 80 years of publication, but is anyone surprised? Newsweek’s own Editor-in-Chief TIna Brown is quoted in both the New York and Los Angeles Times as having said the change in editions “was always going to happen.” It seems that even the men and women entrenched in print journalism have begun to herald its demise, saying like Brown that “it really has not been a question of if…it has been a question of when.” But should we as consumers of news be so cynical? The absence of medium-form journalism publications like Newsweek should not simply be mourned, but demanded for the sake of our information consumption.
In what will soon be called the “good-old-days” of news magazines, content wasn’t simply limited to 140 characters. There were countless magazines providing round-ups of various depths of news. The first pages provided national and international briefs on everything important that had taken place that week. But what really mattered was the front page.
Plastered across the cover of every issue of Newsweek was always a story that promised to turn heads and draw reactions. Whether it was a profile or an issue story, these features never failed to end up on the tips of the American public’s tongue, fueling pundits and generally setting media agendas.
But with the rise of “ticker journalism,” where news is promoted solely through tweets and other short blurbs, the demise of Newsweek means the demise of the cover page, which in effect means a loss of priorities in our information absorption. Amateur journalists flood the Internet with half-news half-speculation stories that unintentionally delegitimize professional equivalents by inserting opinions and skewing quotes and polls. Bloggers then repackage these “news” stories to market to the blogosphere and become stories themselves, feeding this never-ending cycle.
Not only is there something aesthetic about flipping through different sections of a news publication, it allowed the fourth branch of government, the media, to tell us what we should be paying attention to. Arguments about bias of news aside, it is often forgotten that that is really the media’s job, to inform. The death of Newsweek print edition is only the beginning of the death of the newsstand and the paper boy and really the framework that brought professional information to our attention.
In addition, feature stories that ran in the middle pages of Newsweek often were overlooked or under appreciated stories that, like a daily newspaper, applied investigative journalism to an issue to produce a hard-hitting story or simply a viewpoint not available before. And the fact remains that that kind of investigation is not possible without the support of an actual news organization. Now bloggers claim to be investigative when they in reality are only drawing from known information, passing old news off as breaking news. Overall, the prestige of journalism has certainly begun to fade.
Where news was once a canvas, in which important stories were bigger and op-eds were kept separate intentionally, tickers have made journalism a matter of long lists. With nothing to differentiate essential news from opinionated commentary within these tickers, suddenly information becomes ambiguously mixed with personalities and more importantly emotions.
Not to say that information and emotion should inherently be separated, but when the line between fact and feeling is blurred, the ramifications tend to be ones of polarization and informational pigeon-holing. By that, I mean the act of taking news that one agrees with and believing it while taking that which one doesn’t agree with and writing it off as false.
Granted, Newsweek was hardly guiltless in towing the line of editorializing news. But as this phenomena of blending continues through the Internet, publications like Newsweek will surely be missed.
Ian Mariani is a junior DWA major. He can be reached at [email protected]
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