Out-Of-Print

In the least surprising media news of the year, NewsBeast honcho Tina Brown announced that the print edition of Newsweek would cease publication at the end of the year. After a wave of layoffs aimed at staunching the overall operation’s massive operating losses, the brand will somehow be preserved online.

I guess those of us of a certain age ought to wax nostalgic about Newsweek‘s demise as a print publication. I am in fact old enough to remember when Newsweek and Time (and to a lesser extent, U.S. News and World Report) were how smart and civically engaged regular folk outside Megalopolis got regular doses of national news and commentary. This was long before you could spot those blue New York Times bags on suburban lawns across the country, and long before cable news and even Talk Radio. And it’s obviously a business model and a slice of media culture that makes little or no sense today.

Print media can and will survive fulfilling different market niches; maybe daily locally-focused news in some ad-rich markets; and deep-reporting and/or opinion journalism nationally. But the News Weekly, once an urgently needed product that helped keep the “brow” in “middle-brow,” can’t quite sustain itself as something you only read while cooling your heels at the doctor’s office.

I’d get really sad about it if the impending funeral of Newsweek-as-we-know-it wasn’t happening at such a crowded journalistic graveyard. A lot of fine publishing traditions will continue to check out in the near future, and it’s a shame we won’t have the print edition of Newsweek to mark all the “Transitions.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.