With its current, shocking, attention-seeking and pathetically pandering cover story, Newsweek, once a respected name in news coverage, has officially jumped the shark and self-identified as chum. “Hit the Road, Barack” the cover shouts, in a lame spoof of the classic Ray Charles song. The subtitle: “Why We Need A New President.” Naturally, the Daily Beast, which, like Newsweek, is a left-leaning newsy thing owned by Tina Brown, plugs the issue as its #1 event.
Here is what makes the cover significant: it shows that there is no longer even a pretense of integrity in the business of journalism, only show biz, shock, and tabloid tactics. Newsweek, in its recent incarnation, if it stood for anything other than the demise of weekly news magazines in the internet age, stood for the deification of Barack Obama, fairness and facts be damned. During the 2008 campaign the magazine ran so many beatific photos of the candidate on the cover that it became laughable and monotonous. Since the election, Brown has stocked the magazine’s pages with Obama-worshipers who had to turn in their independent judgment and objectivity at the door. The Daily Beast is a bit more diverse, but still hits the same mind-blowing notes of partisan fantasy. Beast regular Peter Beinart pronounced the election a guaranteed stroll for Obama months ago. Michael Tomasky, who also stalks the pages of Newsweek, recently wrote that an Obama landslide was sure thing, so undeniably successful has his term been. The red meat Blue crowd laps it up; never mind that such articles have the approximate enlightenment value of being hit over the head repeatedly with a 9-iron. The President has now devolved into a mere prop for Newsweek to brandish in the pursuit of sensationalism. Remember the cover with Obama wearing a rainbow halo and being hailed as “the first gay President”? This has nothing to do with news. It is only about commerce.
Still, Newsweek founders. Desperate and venal partisans who regard integrity and trust as disposable as used Kleenex tissues have adopted the sudden ideological reversal as a career re-starter for decades. Dennis Miller, David Brock, Adriana Huffington and others have benefited by flipping right to left or left to right, though they forfeit the privilege of having their opinions taken seriously evermore, at least by me. Now the management of Newsweek, trying to save the doomed anachronism they purchased for a bucket of warm spit a while back, has made the cynical calculation that turning on their hero will sell a few more copies than shamelessly promoting him. Maybe it will: as P.T. Barnum sagely observed, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
But for the non-suckers out there, I ask this: What are Newsweek’s values? It isn’t objective. It isn’t fair. It doesn’t provide balanced analysis. It isn’t honest, as it will proclaim assertions for shock value alone, such as calling Obama a “gay President.” It isn’t even loyal to its own chosen biases. What Newsweek is now is a rag that will print anything it thinks will sell magazines this week, and next week is up for grabs. Can “Is Obama a Martian?” be far behind? “Obama, the first transexual President”?
This is an election and an important one, with issues and decisions looming that will affect millions of lives and the fate of the nation and the world. Competent, serious news analysis is needed and wanted, and Newsweek is treating President Obama like Kim Kardashian. It is disrespectful, it is dishonest, and it is intolerable.
Hit the road, Newsweek.