Newsweek, according to Howard Kurtz and Jon Meacham, has carved out a path that is totally new and totally different, breaking away from its old objectivity as a news magazine for the multitudes that runs down the middle, and recasting itself as an elite publication for the elite (and the liberal) few. But for something new and different, it certainly seems to be old and familiar, in fact almost exactly what it's been for at least the last year. There's the big, dreamy photo of Barack Obama, (check); the view of the world, as seen by Obama (check); the series of stories (by liberal writers) about how dreamy Obama can be. There is nary a cross word (check) about His Sublimity. The big difference is that, on this cover, the name "Obama" is printed out twice.
Aside from this, the other big difference is that this Newsweek has many fewer readers than it had B.O. (Before Obama), or before he took over the whole magazine. This year, as the Big O was reaching his apogee, the magazine nose-dived, losing, Kurtz says, nearly $20 million, and leading to the sensible business decision to double down on the Obama-immersion, and raise the newsstand price to nearly six bucks.
The idea seems to be that the audience for both Obama and the new, improved Newsweek are a bunch of up-scale arugula-nibblers, willing to pay through their elegant nostrils for more musings on Barack and Michelle and their elegance, but it seems more and more as if its new, elite, audience is what was left of its old non-elite one, after everyone who wasn't a committed left-winger got sick of the unrelieved fawning and groveling, and stopped picking it up on the newsstands, or let his subscription run out.
If its old audience seemed to be more or less a cross-section, this seems to be the crowd that comes out in force for a reading at the Politics and Prose bookstore of the next "Bush Lied!" volume, where everyone tends to look and dress rather like Eleanor Roosevelt, and that includes men.
"Newsweek executives are gambling that advertisers will support the equivalent of shifting from beer to wine," Kurtz says helpfully. But it's the same magazine, so readers may need to shift from wine to something more potent. In fact, you have to be drunk to think Newsweek is changing. You have to be drunk to even read Newsweek. I still don't like Newsweek, and I drink wine a whole lot.
Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.