Accuracy in Media

“If we can’t convince a million and a half people we’re worth less than a dollar a week, the market will have spoken,” Newsweek’s editor Jon Meacham said in May 2009, according to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post.  And Meacham has been working hard to make his dream come true, by featuring such laughable headlines as The Thinking Man’s Thinking Man: Al Gore’s New Plan for the Planet, Yes He Can (But He Sure Hasn’t Yet): A Liberal’s Survival Guide, and my personal favorite, Why Joe Is No Joke: From Afghanistan to Health Care, A Vice President to Be Reckoned With, a hilarious attempt to validate Joe Biden.  At this point, the number of Americans who believe Newsweek is worth more than a dollar a week is shrinking faster than Harry Reid’s approval ratings.

Still, Meacham should be lauded for his cunning here. Newsweek lost almost $20 million in the first quarter of this year; in response, Meacham said that he would attempt to cut readership in order to increase profits (see the link to Howard Kurtz’s article).  His plan involved “discouraging renewals,” ostensibly by creating a magazine so far to the left that no rational human being could take it seriously, and “targeting a more highbrow audience” (the term “highbrow” being used in the loosest possible sense).  By claiming it was his plan all along to isolate the vast majority of readers, Meacham can still grasp at the elusive straws of credibility. 

It may be safe to say that Newsweek has never needed that credibility more.  For example, the November 9th edition of Newsweek (The Thinking Man’s Thinking Man) calls Al Gore a “prophet” several times, in multiple articles.  Newsweek contributor Sharon Begley writes glowingly of Gore, praising him for everything from his optimism to his spirituality in her article The Evolution of an Eco-Prophet.  She calls him “fact-filled,” largely ignoring the growing scientific dissent with his claims, and essentially admits her unquestioning faith in the “eco-prophet”: “One has absolutely no trouble-none, zero, nil-believing him,” she writes. 

On the other hand, Meacham doesn’t bother explaining how easy it was for him to believe Al Gore, and he doesn’t need to.  He made his own faith in Gore all too clear with his own November 9th article, Recycling Won’t Save Us, But Greed Might.  The entire article presumes that Gore’s claims are all correct, and calls Gore a prophet twice. 

This eco-alarmism from Newsweek is truly fascinating, considering the fact that as of October 26, 2009, according to statistics from the Pew Research Center, more Americans believe in haunted houses than believe in manmade global warming.  Given that fact, perhaps Newsweek would have been better off if they’d focused their November 9th edition on ghost stories rather than the alleged global warming and Al Gore’s “evolution.”

On the other hand, Meacham’s apparent goal is to make at least a million and a half people think Newsweek is worthless this year.  So in reality, he’s actually doing a great job when it comes to courting American readership.

Meacham’s suicidal strategy may defy all logic, but those striving for accuracy in media shouldn’t stand in his way.  If he wants to drive Newsweek into the ground, by golly, let’s help him.  He might think that “Joe is no joke,” but in reality, his publication is the punch line.

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