Another British Invasion?

ANOTHER BRITISH INVASION?….My sister’s favorite newspaper, the Guardian, is planning to start up a U.S. spinoff:

Its tentative form is as a weekly magazine, quite unlike any other weekly magazine that has been started in the U.S. in the past generation. Not only is it about politics (Rusbridger is looking to launch in the winter to cover the presidential-primary season), but the magazine?meant to be 60 percent derived from the Guardian itself, with the rest to come from American contributors?has a great deal of text unbroken by design elements.

….Rather than a lot of readers at a small price, the idea is fewer readers at a greater price….Against the trend of all other commercial media (wherein the price the consumer needs to pay or is willing to pay gets progressively lower), the job here is to make the magazine?the writing, the attitudes, the opinions, the content?worth more by being better, smarter, more exclusive.

dKos is enthusiastic:

Bringing the Guardian to these shores — a publication that has far more cachet post-war than our resident left mags like the New Republic or the Nation. The former is no longer “lefty” by any stretch of the imagination, and the latter is largely irrelevant (flame away, Nation fans).

….We need a quality print periodical that can provide the intellectual foundation for the liberal agenda (much as the Weekly Standard has done for the Right). The Guardian would be perfect.

But James Joyner isn’t convinced:

I disagree, as might be expected, that there is a dearth of leftist opinion writers available in the US market….The op-ed pages of the major newspapers are filled with liberal pundits. Ditto ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC.

….There is probably no leftist magazine comparable to Weekly Standard–but there are no other conservative magazines with that much influence, either. National Review’s heyday has long passed. And even the Standard is influential primarily because they signed up already-established writers and have managed to leverage their influence into the television arena, where Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol are regularly seen. Indeed, the actual readership of any of those magazines is rather small and relegated almost entirely to the true believers.

But after reading about the Guardian’s plans and then reading all the commentary about it today, I’m left with one nagging question: exactly what kind of magazine is it supposed to be? Of course it will tilt leftward, but is it a news magazine, a sort of lefty Economist, or is it truly a political magazine, a British version of The New Republic?

This is an important distinction. A lefty Economist would be a useful addition to the American media scene, a serious newsweekly that provides lots of straight news but provides it from a lefty perspective. That’s something we don’t have. On the other hand, if it’s mostly geared toward political analysis and opinion, I’m not sure I see the point. Aside from a bit of distance from the hurly burly and a more international flavor ? neither of which seem all that useful in an American political magazine ? I doubt very much that the Guardian can provide anything that we don’t already get from the Nation, TNR, or the American Prospect.

A lefty (but nonpolemical) news magazine would be something to look forward to, but it’s not clear if that’s what we’ll be getting. So for now, I’m going to hold onto my enthusiasm until I hear more.

POSTSCRIPT: On the other hand, if they want to build up some buzz by inviting a few lefty bloggers to fly over for a look, my passport is up to date and my calendar is open….