Even In 1986 We Wondered About Newsweek….
I’ll always be grateful to Newsweek for helping me get started in journalism. When Melinda Liu hired me as her Hong Kong stringer and general factotum, the job came with a tough taskmaster and a crash course in everything from how to write a colorful tic-tock and how to research North Korean beneficial ownership of Macau companies to how to run thousands of words of a “file” through a clattering teleprinter – the only means then of sending things back to the New York HQ.
There was even a side lesson on how to carry the bags of the visiting editor-in-chief, but that’s another story!
I was proud and pleased to be given the chance, but frankly even then the relevance and the health of the newsweekly was obviously in question.
The waste. How many pictures did I buy from stock agencies to illustrate cover stories that never ran!
The waste!! How many thousands of words did I write or punch into teleprinter tape for stories that the Gods in New York either spiked or or crunched into a brief or smashed into a something that they begrudgingly ran in the Asian regional edition.
The New York centricity! How many times did the fax machine groan with a slow print of the New York Times front page, telling us what the Asia story REALLY was.
And the main thing – it was just simply out of time sync. The news happened in real time, more and more people learned of the news in real time and a sluggishly slow, New York-edited newsmagazine just struggled to find a niche.
I can’t remember the last time I picked up a Newsweek, even out of boredom on a long flight or in a dentist’s office. I don’t think I’ve ever visited the website – I say that not with pride or out of spite: it is just a fact.
So now Newsweek will go all digital. Good luck.
But my personal worry is how do I have time to read all the digital magazines that I really want to read, let alone one whose relevance remains questionable.
Last night was the Hong Kong launch of Quartz, qz.com, the smart, gorgeous, innovative all-digital business site from the Atlantic. Great party, great content, great people. I want to make it one of my regular destinations, but will I really do it?