Saturday, May 08, 2010

Why Newsweek Failed

Ace of Spades celebrates the collapse of Newsweek in a long but enjoyable essay. I have certainly complained about it here, especially in my Cultural Tribes comments. AoS is harsher, and thus more entertaining than I am.
There are many soft-liberals for precisely that reason. Because a soft-liberalism -- a vague and gauzy feel-goodery, a brainless parroting of "nice" sentiments, an adherence to political correctness -- causes you few if any problems in social situations or work. It gets you a little cheaply-earned assent and praise, because so many other people are apathetic and soft-liberal and are similarly disposed to agreeing with nonsense.

And meanwhile, departing from that soft-liberal line takes not only work -- you have to read up a bit on the conventional wisdom if you wish to dispute it, while it takes no reading at all to merely repeat the conventional wisdom -- but exposes you to social penalties, too. No one has to really "choose" to be a soft-liberal; it's the default setting, as it were, the industry standard for people who really don't care all that much.

Choosing to be a communist is Decision. And, similarly, choosing to be a conservative is a Decision. Choosing to be a strident, partisan liberal ideologue is also a decision (but an easier one, too, because it's only a few degrees removed from soft-liberal feel-goodery).

But choosing to be a soft-liberal and mouth empty platitudes? Easy as pie, and not one in 20 people is going to bother challenging you on those platitudes.
You don't have time to read all 200 comments, but you might, you might. Ace has clever commenters, harsher than he is. Sample, in a sub-discussion about what should Newsweek do going forward: #16 "They should just rename it Barry! and be done with it."


Simon Kenton said...

I used to read journalism blogs, which were uniformly exercised about "Whither Journalism?" "What has Gone Wrong?" There would be deeply engaged discussion. Very articulate, as you might hope for from people who write for a living. All, unfortunately, forgettable and forgotten, but tending to the idea that it was that pesky internet, or those damned advertisers, or a public which was just not up to standard. Then a commenter - as it might be myself - would say something like, "You migrated the editorial page onto the front page," or "If a McDonalds put up a big sign that said, 'The 48% of you who voted for McCain will get no food here,' would you be surprised if it went bankrupt?" or "If you could abate the preoccupation with making a difference long enough to get a story straight and unbalanced, you might be able to make a difference. But you never do, any more, do you?"

The urbane and incisive commentary on the future of journalism would part round these pebbles and flow on, damning Craigslist and perfidious advertisers, a feckless public with a gnat's attention span and the preoccupations of a he-goat, upstart rogue bloggers uncocooned by silky layers of factcheckery.

My comments on those sites may have been stupid and assuredly were not as brilliant as the others, but they did encapsulate what people cancelling their subscriptions actually said.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

"My comments on those sites may have been stupid ..."

I'm going to guess not, given your descriptions and analogies here.

Technological change certainly hastened their demise. It may have even been the single greatest factor. But an inability to even consider the other possibilities bespeaks a refusal to deal with reality that ultimately had to bring them under.