Once upon a time, I had a subscription to Newsweek. Founded by the Washington Post, Newsweek covered much the same ground as Time magazine in its heyday. It and U.S. News and World Report provided a more plain language counterweight to the haughty Time. As part of its mandate Time invented new language, deliberately created its own compressed reporting style and appointed People of the Year. Time assumed that it had weight and proceeded accordingly. U.S, News and Newsweek offered English translations of Time, for people who weren’t into the whole thought experiment.
All three magazines have become relics of the past. Time ceased being meaningful round about half past the point where a television appeared in every living room. Newsweek held on as a method of burnishing the national reputation of the Washington Post organization. U.S. News took the unusual tactic of heading upscale, becoming an American version of England’s Economist. None of them did well in the modern era. Both Time and U.S. News took to running stunt issues or simply pulling stunts. (1) Today the haughty School Ratings Guide is all that remains of U.S. News.
Newsweek had the most tragic fall, as we detailed in this blog at the time. First, its parent company became taken over by an academic testing firm. (2) At the start of the last print downturn, the firm decided to offload all of its news assets—essentially giving the Washington Post away to the owner of Amazon and then freebie garage selling Newsweek to… Harmon-Cardin Speakers… then the Daily Beast… and then a pernicious end of the world cult.
Please be advised that Newsweek is still the possession of a split off of the Unification Church, a truthfully dubious Ponzi scheme in the form of a religion. In this incarnation, the purpose of the Newsweek trademark is to act as click bait for advertising media. Any story which surfaces on their pages has to be judged from this perspective first. There is no actual newsgathering institution informing its choices or abiding by any known journalistic standard. Much of what they have reported previously has turned out to be TRUE CRIME PULP FICTION.
While we at Hil-Gle love us some pulp fiction, we prefer the more clearly labeled as sensationalist type. We mention Newsweek’s current pedigree only because its words are being reflected as truth by legitimate outlets. In all likelihood the reporting that Vlad Putin has leukemia or “blood cancer” is erroneous. It is more probable that it has no source at all. Not that Newsweek’s heart isn’t in the right place, but rather that they are not disclosing their methodology. The cult’s doctrine is that if something is believed in widely or earnestly enough, it will become true. From their mouths to God’s ear. This story is doing double duty in priming the wish pump and drawing eyes to their usual flow of nonsense.
I am not about to debate the efficacy of their operant cosmology. I would just like to point out what it is. Until Newsweek is in other hands it may be safely disregarded.
(1) Time took the weird tactic of attempting to outrage the masses. This was always a part of its presentation, however at about the O.J. Simpson cover on, it became their meat and potatoes. Alienating middle America has its consequences, as it and Rolling Stone later found out. Recently Time was offloaded from what had been Time/Warner (formerly AOL/Time-Warner and Warner Seven Arts) and traded for gum money by AT&T along with cash cow sister rag People Magazine to a firm which actually likes being in magazine business. The new firm is now attempting to define what an international news digest actually is. The verdict isn’t in yet but we wish them the best of luck.
(2) Very long story, short. The testing firm was an investment, something with a small but predictable income that would help the Washington Post wean itself off of reliance on the spectacularly erratic advertising income cycle. And it was a good investment, one that grew both in size and profitability to the point that it dwarfed its parent company. Then the Washington Post and Newsweek started bleeding red ink with no end in sight and liability which hampered the testing firm’s continued expansion. Eventually someone who could read a spreadsheet without sentimentality showed up and made the obvious choice. Bad news for the Washington Post and Newsweek, but good news for the heirs of fatcat press barons. Our fairy tale ends happily with the rich people staying rich and no longer having to bother with a grimy public information trust.