THE ECONOMIST….Do you read the Economist? The kinda sorta consensus in the liberal blogosphere is that you shouldn’t: it’s a magazine that sounds smart, but really isn’t. Rather, it’s just conservative propaganda, but in a smoother, more palatable package than the Wall Street Journal editorial page.
I myself read the Economist for about ten or fifteen years, and then stopped around 2000 or so. Partly this was because the ideological content really did seem to be getting more obtrusive than in the past and I got tired of it, and partly it was because the web made so much more news available — especially international and economic news — that the Economist didn’t really seem to have much comparative advantage left. So I gradually read it less and less and finally let my subscription lapse.
All that said, though, it really is a good product in the weekly newsmagazine category: like most British magazines compared to their American equivalents, it makes our stuff look like kindergarten journals. And I’ve never really understood the objection to the fact that they have a point of view. Frankly, I prefer knowing a magazine’s editorial slant, something that’s not really that hard to filter out if you’re paying attention, and theirs never really became all that heavy handed. Sure, you could always tell which side of an issue they took by whether they presented it first or last in an article, but at least they presented both sides in a generally intelligent way.
So why did I really stop reading? Well, the web and the ideology were contributing factors, but the real reason was logistical. The magazine closes on Thursday, and for over a decade I could count on getting it in the mail on Friday (sometimes) or Saturday (usually). Then something changed and suddenly the magazine never appeared before Monday. Sometimes not til Tuesday, and on rare occasions later than that. By that time the weekend was gone, the content was moldy even for a weekly, and more and more I just never got around to reading it. Since it’s an expensive subscription, eventually I stopped.
Whose fault was this? The Economist’s? The U.S. Postal Service’s? Nobody’s? I don’t know. Perhaps they ought to look into it and write a story about how they could speed up their home delivery if they started using a private delivery service instead of a bloated, unionized, labor-heavy government monopoly. Though it would be sort of embarrassing if they tried it and it didn’t work, wouldn’t it?