July 22, 2009
The New Newsweek
For a couple of months now, Newsweek has trotted out its new format--new print design and new organization of its content inside. From my reading of the comments, most (usually die-hard, lifelong Newsweek readers) unequivocally don't like the new format. I'm not one of them.
The design is not flashy or gimmicky. It is straightforward and dignified. To me, the new format says Newsweek is serious about what is going on in the world. They are not here to entertain us or keep us up to the second with the latest nonevent.
I suppose it is understandable that those who have been loyal to Newsweek for decades would be the most likely to be disappointed. After all, they stuck with it because they liked what they were getting. But it is clear the news business (especially the print news business) has been undergoing a massive transition in recent years. As Jon Meacham wrote about the change:
[This] represents our best effort to bring you original reporting, provocative (but not partisan) arguments and unique voices. We know you know what the news is. We are not pretending to be your guide through the chaos of the Information Age. If you are like us, you do not need, or want, a single such Sherpa. What we can offer you is the benefit of careful work discovering new facts and prompting unexpected thought. . . .
What is displaced by these categories? The chief casualty is the straightforward news piece and news written with a few (hard-won, to be sure) new details that does not move us significantly past what we already know. Will we cover breaking news? Yes, we will, but with a rigorous standard in mind: Are we truly adding to the conversation? When violence erupts in the Middle East, are we saying something original about it? Are our photographs and design values exceptional? If the answers are yes, then we are in business.
We don't need more bits and pieces of disconnected data. We need instead more insight and perspective. We need more wisdom. To me, it looks like Newsweek wants to offer that.