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Newsweek Gets Grilled

March 8, 2011

This is not the type of feedback one wishes to hear about the redesign of a national newsmagazine.

The problem with Jon Meacham’s Newsweek, somebody said to me last week, was that he didn’t like the news and he didn’t like the week. Tina Brown’s redesigned Newsweek suffers a similar Meacham-esque avoidance of newsiness and the week. One would think that with the Arab world spinning apart, political insurrection visiting Capitol Hill and the state houses, and the NFL going on sabbatical, the week would be so hot that Brown could stir-fry its ingredients for a sizzling meal.

Instead, Brown puts the queen of cold, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on the cover and fills the corresponding article with hagiography. Also on the cover, she leans on the oldest trick in the magazine playbook—a list—which she runs over the nameplate (“150 Women Who Shake the World”). She continues the women theme inside. Several new big-name columnists appear in the front of the book—Kathleen Parker, Niall Ferguson, Leslie H. Gelb, and Joanne Lipman—but none of them turns a phrase or casts a thought you haven’t heard a million times before. This is a meal that a homeless person would walk away from.

The issue fails not just by my measure or by the homeless guy’s but by Brown’s. In her introductory note, she writes that the new Newsweek will be “about filling the gaps left when a story has seemingly passed, or resetting the agenda, or coming up with an insight or synthesis that connects the crackling, confusing digital dots.” Having read the new issue front-to-back, I can report that the gaps remain, the agenda has not shifted, and the crackling, confusing digital dots are still scattered at random on the floor.


  1. March 8, 2011 9:53 PM


    I could have picked over 20 harsh reviews…and after getting my copy in the mail today…..21!

    I just renewed in January and will get my money back. I read The Economist and Time…..and Newsweek is now just awful. There was nothing in it!

    Nothing new to ponder.


  2. Dale permalink
    March 8, 2011 9:50 PM

    Commentary from Slate magazine? Who cares?

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