Missing the National News Magazines

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Newsweek announced recently it would be on-line only at the end of the year. The printed version will cease publication after nearly 80 years.  Over the years, I subscribed to Newsweek, Time, and US News and World Report . I rarely got more than one subscription at a time. I looked forward to these magazines when they arrived in the mail. They usually appeared early in the week (the news magazines now come in the mail toward the end of the week).

As a working journalist, I saw the magazines as a necessary tool of the trade or even an investment in the maintenance of my career.

I read the stories revolving around what was going on in Washington, DC. The writers were given more space to delve into an issue. Often, the editors would offer a sidebar piece to the main story.  I gained new perspective from the columnists who would appear regularly. After reading an issue, I felt a little bit better about my understanding the big topics happening in the nation.

But as with all things in life, change happens.

The start of CNN in 1980 followed by the explosion of cable news outlets in the succeeding decades evolved to the point where news and information became available instantly. In the recent decade, analysis appears hourly on the cable news shows.

 The audience for a weekly news magazine has dropped as readers now seem able to get all the insight they need with the push of a television remote switch. The Internet has also forever changed the printed news delivery model.

 The model isn't dead, but publishers have been challenged to compete in the cyberspace age.

For many readers, waiting for the magazine in the mail no longer seems like a viable option in today’s shortened news cycle.  There was a sort of comfort I experienced reading the news magazines. Maybe it was the notion of thoughtful analysis. Cable television is great with the gut reaction, but the magazines provided a more measured weighing in of news and commentary.

 And maybe, just maybe, it was the idea of curling away for an extended period of time away from the television and away from the distractions that fill the day to relax, read, and understand a little more about the stories making news.

Over the years, I have noticed the magazines were becoming thinner. What once took me over an hour to read with promises to myself to return later in the week to less time-sensitive articles, now takes me fewer than forty minutes with no return visit to pick up anything I may have skipped on the first read through.

 With the airwaves now filled with “round table” news shows, the news magazines seem marginalized. Time will be the only major one left publishing a paper version every week. US News and World Report led the move to on-line only a few years ago. I still subscribe to Time; out of loyalty to the brand and a very attractive subscription rate. I’ll stay with Time at least through the end of the current subscription.

Maybe by then we’ll see the pendulum begin to swing back in the other direction. It does’t look likely, but who would have thought on-line magazines and newspapers would become the trend it has become.

 I long for the days when the magazines were special. Some were so special, they were kept from the weekly recycling bin. I saved a few issues over the years including Time’s issues on the deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison, a handful of issues with Ronald Reagan commemorating some of his presidential milestones, and the 9-11 coverage among others.

I often would save the Person of the Year or some other special issue of Time and its counterparts. They have become icons from special moments in our nation’s most recent history. I’ll miss that part of the weekly printed news magazine more than anything else.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.