Newsweek: The end of a publishing era

Posted on December 11, 2012 in Henry's Head, Perspectives
By Andrew Henry

Andrew Henry | The Free Press

I’ve been reading Newsweek for almost 10 years; My father has been reading it for close to 30. And after Dec. 31, neither of us will be able to say to one another, “Have you seen the latest issue of Newsweek?”

After 79 years of publication, Newsweek will cease print publication of its print magazine and transition solely to online news. In 2010, they merged with online news source The Daily Beast, and will continue to publish content online after the print publication is finished. I think this is a watershed moment in the era for print news. I’m not just saying this as a Newsweek reader, but as someone who currently works in the world of print news and media. News magazines have been a part of American life for almost a century, and before the internet boom, they used to be the only place for global news coverage and in-depth professional political analysis. If you wanted to find out why Reagan’s “Star Wars” plan was the greatest advance in strategic defense, you had to turn to page 24. I get a feeling of tactile nostalgia when I turn a page to read an article or view a photo. It’s nostalgia for a true “page-turner.” The term doesn’t work as well when it’s updated to “mouse-clicker.”

There’s a certain glamour involved in reading a magazine. It’s difficult to watch a former leading news source enter the downward spiral. Call me old-fashioned, but I really enjoyed flipping through the glossy pages of a news magazine, and getting ink on my thumbs from holding the page of an engrossing story too long. I think that it’s a progressive step for Newsweek to go strictly online, but that this is the result of several missteps from Newsweek. It can be viewed both as a positive and/or negative move.

It’s not as if we couldn’t have seen this coming. Over the past few years, Newsweek has started to publish increasingly controversial covers and stories. The most notorious recent examples involve the lampooning of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, the latter of which included a magazine cover that used her test photo instead of the re-touched one. Newsweek has also been wandering into the gossip category with their headlines, such as “The Wimp Factor” about Mitt Romney, and “Muslim Rage,” about, well, Muslim rage. They started to implement more drastic tactics to get readers, and in many ways, it backfired. People didn’t pick up the magazine – they talked about it online.

Whether you’re a fan of Newsweek or not, the digitizing of a long-standing print publication is a sad thing. My dad still has the issues from 9/11, Obama’s first election win and a plethora of other important events since the magazine’s first issue. Newsweek will cease printing, and that will be that. I’ll wake up on January 1 and slink over to my computer, where I’ll have to squint to read the newest issue. For Newsweek, it’s time to turn the page. Pity, because I really liked the one I’m on.