Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jacob Weisberg

RE: Newsweek Squeak

John, I wanted to follow up on your post on Newsweek by linking to this interview between Jon Meacham and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show [it can be found here and here]. During it, Meacham says this:

I do not believe that Newsweek is the only catcher in the rye between democracy and ignorance, but I think we’re one of them. And I don’t think there are that many on the edge of that cliff.

Ah, no.

For years I had subscribed to Newsweek, though I dropped the subscription last year, when I thought the magazine took a dive for the worst. I found the “new” Newsweek to be horrible in layout and in many (though certainly not all) of the writers it regularly featured. Jacob Weisberg and Jonathan Alter are not vital to the success of the American Republic. Trust me.

Regardless of your views about the quality of Newsweek, though, the notion that it is one of the “few catchers in the rye between democracy and ignorance” is risible. It was a liberal-leaning newsmagazine that mirrored almost perfectly the conventional wisdom of the political class. It was not, and never has been, indispensible, close to indispensible, or marginally indispensible. In fact, American democracy and American public discourse will not be one bit worse off when it disappears from the scene.

My three children will do fine growing up in a world without Newsweek.

Meacham also insisted that Newsweek has been “one of the very few common denominators in a fragmented world.” It actually has not been that.

Newsweek represented a point of view that was philosophically liberal. In some years it did that better than in other years. But it was not a “common denominator” for us, as much as Meacham wishes it were. And I, for one, believe the “fragmented” media world we live in is far superior to the one that came before it. The consensus that existed among journalists when their profession was dominated by Time and Newsweek, by ABC, NBC, and CBS, by the New York Times and the Washington Post, was stupefying. The narratives were virtually all the same because the worldviews of reporters were almost all the same. What we had were a “herd of independent minds” trying to tell us how to think, which stories were worthy of our attention, and how to process those stories.

Today we live in a far more interesting, variegated, and informed world. There are now genuine clashes of ideas — and facts can now be checked in a way they never were in the past. (See Dan Rather’s and CBS’s reliance on bogus documents for a “60 Minutes” report charging that President Bush received favorable treatment in the National Guard, something that two decades ago could have cost Bush the presidency instead of Rather his job.)

It isn’t a perfect world by any means. And I’m not in favor of a world in which there are only commentators, only bloggers, only opinion-makers. We still need newspapers and news organizations that report and break news. For example, the New York Times, whatever its drawbacks, still provides excellent coverage of international affairs. During the Iraq war reporters like John Burns, Dexter Filkins, and Michael Gordon provided outstanding coverage.

We still need journalists reporting on oil wells that explode and leak, British elections being held, wars being fought, genocide unfolding, riots occurring in Greece, and all the rest. The good news is that we live in a world that features both “hard news” and informed commentary, to a degree we have never had before.

In that respect, what we have today is a vast improvement over the past. It also means that the truth and reality of the world in which we live has a better chance of being apprehended by the American citizenry.

I can understand on a personal and a professional level why Jon Meacham is shattered by what has happened to his magazine. But it is a tragedy for Newsweek, not for America — and not for American journalism.

John, I wanted to follow up on your post on Newsweek by linking to this interview between Jon Meacham and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show [it can be found here and here]. During it, Meacham says this:

I do not believe that Newsweek is the only catcher in the rye between democracy and ignorance, but I think we’re one of them. And I don’t think there are that many on the edge of that cliff.

Ah, no.

For years I had subscribed to Newsweek, though I dropped the subscription last year, when I thought the magazine took a dive for the worst. I found the “new” Newsweek to be horrible in layout and in many (though certainly not all) of the writers it regularly featured. Jacob Weisberg and Jonathan Alter are not vital to the success of the American Republic. Trust me.

Regardless of your views about the quality of Newsweek, though, the notion that it is one of the “few catchers in the rye between democracy and ignorance” is risible. It was a liberal-leaning newsmagazine that mirrored almost perfectly the conventional wisdom of the political class. It was not, and never has been, indispensible, close to indispensible, or marginally indispensible. In fact, American democracy and American public discourse will not be one bit worse off when it disappears from the scene.

My three children will do fine growing up in a world without Newsweek.

Meacham also insisted that Newsweek has been “one of the very few common denominators in a fragmented world.” It actually has not been that.

Newsweek represented a point of view that was philosophically liberal. In some years it did that better than in other years. But it was not a “common denominator” for us, as much as Meacham wishes it were. And I, for one, believe the “fragmented” media world we live in is far superior to the one that came before it. The consensus that existed among journalists when their profession was dominated by Time and Newsweek, by ABC, NBC, and CBS, by the New York Times and the Washington Post, was stupefying. The narratives were virtually all the same because the worldviews of reporters were almost all the same. What we had were a “herd of independent minds” trying to tell us how to think, which stories were worthy of our attention, and how to process those stories.

Today we live in a far more interesting, variegated, and informed world. There are now genuine clashes of ideas — and facts can now be checked in a way they never were in the past. (See Dan Rather’s and CBS’s reliance on bogus documents for a “60 Minutes” report charging that President Bush received favorable treatment in the National Guard, something that two decades ago could have cost Bush the presidency instead of Rather his job.)

It isn’t a perfect world by any means. And I’m not in favor of a world in which there are only commentators, only bloggers, only opinion-makers. We still need newspapers and news organizations that report and break news. For example, the New York Times, whatever its drawbacks, still provides excellent coverage of international affairs. During the Iraq war reporters like John Burns, Dexter Filkins, and Michael Gordon provided outstanding coverage.

We still need journalists reporting on oil wells that explode and leak, British elections being held, wars being fought, genocide unfolding, riots occurring in Greece, and all the rest. The good news is that we live in a world that features both “hard news” and informed commentary, to a degree we have never had before.

In that respect, what we have today is a vast improvement over the past. It also means that the truth and reality of the world in which we live has a better chance of being apprehended by the American citizenry.

I can understand on a personal and a professional level why Jon Meacham is shattered by what has happened to his magazine. But it is a tragedy for Newsweek, not for America — and not for American journalism.

Read Less

And Now for Some News from Realityland

One of the more annoying tendencies of Western commentators on the Middle East is their desperate insistence that the Palestinians have long since accepted the “two-state solution,” and the only obstacle to the success of the peace process is smoothing over minor differences on Jerusalem, borders, settlements, and so on.

Of course, in reality, there is no Palestinian consensus on peaceful coexistence with Israel — not even close. But that doesn’t stop, say, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg (to take one of many examples) from saying this:

But decades of harsh occupation have made dispossessed Palestinians, the majority of whom have long favored a two-state solution, the sympathetic victims in the conflict. [emphasis added]

Where does Weisberg get this information? He of course doesn’t say. There’s no need to be coy — lots of opinion polling is done in the Palestinian territories. Indeed, a new survey, conducted by An-Najah University in Nablus, has just been released.

Do you accept the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with some land exchange as a final solution for the Palestinian problem?

Yes 28.3
No 66.7
No opinion/I do not know 5.0

Do you support or reject making Jerusalem a capital for two states: Palestine and Israel?

I support 20.8
I reject 77.4
No opinion/I do not know 1.8

Et tu, Weisberg?

There is some good news, however, that also punctures an unfounded liberal conviction — that Israeli military action against Hamas only galvanizes Palestinian opinion in favor of the “resistance.” In reality, Hamas is more unpopular than ever:

As you know, there is a government in the West Bank led by Salam Fayyad and another government in the Gaza Strip led by Ismail Haniyeh. In your opinion which government is more capable of managing the internal Palestinian affairs?

The government of Salam Fayyad 63.6
The Government of Ismail Haniyeh 20.1
No opinion/I do not know 16.3

How do you assess the performance of the government of Salam Fayyad?

Good 65.4
Bad 26.3
No opinion/I do not know 8.3

How do you assess the performance of the government of Ismail Haniyeh?

Good 31.2
Bad 45.3
No opinion/I do not know 23.4

The good news is that the Palestinians have seen what Islamist governance entails, and like most Arabs who have had the experience, they don’t particularly like it. The bad news is that the Palestinians, unfortunately, remain utterly divided on the question of the peace process and coexistence with Israel.

One of the more annoying tendencies of Western commentators on the Middle East is their desperate insistence that the Palestinians have long since accepted the “two-state solution,” and the only obstacle to the success of the peace process is smoothing over minor differences on Jerusalem, borders, settlements, and so on.

Of course, in reality, there is no Palestinian consensus on peaceful coexistence with Israel — not even close. But that doesn’t stop, say, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg (to take one of many examples) from saying this:

But decades of harsh occupation have made dispossessed Palestinians, the majority of whom have long favored a two-state solution, the sympathetic victims in the conflict. [emphasis added]

Where does Weisberg get this information? He of course doesn’t say. There’s no need to be coy — lots of opinion polling is done in the Palestinian territories. Indeed, a new survey, conducted by An-Najah University in Nablus, has just been released.

Do you accept the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with some land exchange as a final solution for the Palestinian problem?

Yes 28.3
No 66.7
No opinion/I do not know 5.0

Do you support or reject making Jerusalem a capital for two states: Palestine and Israel?

I support 20.8
I reject 77.4
No opinion/I do not know 1.8

Et tu, Weisberg?

There is some good news, however, that also punctures an unfounded liberal conviction — that Israeli military action against Hamas only galvanizes Palestinian opinion in favor of the “resistance.” In reality, Hamas is more unpopular than ever:

As you know, there is a government in the West Bank led by Salam Fayyad and another government in the Gaza Strip led by Ismail Haniyeh. In your opinion which government is more capable of managing the internal Palestinian affairs?

The government of Salam Fayyad 63.6
The Government of Ismail Haniyeh 20.1
No opinion/I do not know 16.3

How do you assess the performance of the government of Salam Fayyad?

Good 65.4
Bad 26.3
No opinion/I do not know 8.3

How do you assess the performance of the government of Ismail Haniyeh?

Good 31.2
Bad 45.3
No opinion/I do not know 23.4

The good news is that the Palestinians have seen what Islamist governance entails, and like most Arabs who have had the experience, they don’t particularly like it. The bad news is that the Palestinians, unfortunately, remain utterly divided on the question of the peace process and coexistence with Israel.

Read Less

The Real Hypocrisy

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick, observing NPR’s ever-so-helpful effort to assist in the Obami’s Fox vendetta by pressuring Mara Liasson to stay off its news programs, spots the double standard at play. He writes:

“By appearing on Fox, reporters validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations,” declared Jacob Weisberg in a Newsweek column titled “Why Fox News Is Un-American” (remember that title the next time a liberal accuses a conservative of “questioning my patriotism”). “Respectable journalists — I’m talking to you, Mara Liasson — should stop appearing on its programs,” Weisberg insisted.

Kirchick wants to know why Weisberg hasn’t spotted the “violators of the Fourth Estate’s vaunted ethical standards” in his own shop — those who regularly turn up on the netroot network, MSNBC. Yes, it seems that Newsweek‘s supposedly impartial newsmen — Richard Wolffe, Howard Fineman, and Jonathan Alter — all have visited Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. Unlike Liasson, who confines herself to news programs, this trio has offered themselves up as bit players in Olbermann’s rant-athon and cogs in the Obama hype-machine. And, as Kirchick notes, Wolffe wrote a slobbering account of the Obama campaign. And then there was this embarrassing episode:

This year, Fineman went beyond the bounds of journalistic propriety by introducing Olbermann at a political fund-raiser. “He’s not a liberal,” Fineman gushed. “What Keith is is an anti-establishment character who doesn’t want people in power to get away with things.” Fineman added that Olbermann “rediscovered the role of journalism and that role is deeply informed judgment about people in power and about the morality of our country.”

Yikes. But perhaps the Newsweek vs. NPR journalist comparison isn’t precisely accurate. Liasson actually is a neutral newsperson who makes some effort to cover events fairly and to leave hyper-partisan invectives to others. She might be cheerily susceptible to liberal spin, but she’s not in the business of spinning for the Obami herself or gratuitously throwing jabs at the Right.

By contrast, the new Newsweek gang gave up “news” reporting a while ago. The entire publication is now devoted to Obama-hype and slams against the usual conservative suspects, those in biking shorts and with talk-radio shows in particular. Newsweek is, in effect, the MSNBC of the weekly “news” magazine world, minus the more extreme Republicans = Nazis formulations one hears on Countdown. So the real hypocrisy here is not only that the media elites see Liasson alone as violating some code of journalistic purity; it is that they accept the pretense that Newsweek is a news outlet rather than a liberal opinion journal in search of an audience.

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick, observing NPR’s ever-so-helpful effort to assist in the Obami’s Fox vendetta by pressuring Mara Liasson to stay off its news programs, spots the double standard at play. He writes:

“By appearing on Fox, reporters validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations,” declared Jacob Weisberg in a Newsweek column titled “Why Fox News Is Un-American” (remember that title the next time a liberal accuses a conservative of “questioning my patriotism”). “Respectable journalists — I’m talking to you, Mara Liasson — should stop appearing on its programs,” Weisberg insisted.

Kirchick wants to know why Weisberg hasn’t spotted the “violators of the Fourth Estate’s vaunted ethical standards” in his own shop — those who regularly turn up on the netroot network, MSNBC. Yes, it seems that Newsweek‘s supposedly impartial newsmen — Richard Wolffe, Howard Fineman, and Jonathan Alter — all have visited Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. Unlike Liasson, who confines herself to news programs, this trio has offered themselves up as bit players in Olbermann’s rant-athon and cogs in the Obama hype-machine. And, as Kirchick notes, Wolffe wrote a slobbering account of the Obama campaign. And then there was this embarrassing episode:

This year, Fineman went beyond the bounds of journalistic propriety by introducing Olbermann at a political fund-raiser. “He’s not a liberal,” Fineman gushed. “What Keith is is an anti-establishment character who doesn’t want people in power to get away with things.” Fineman added that Olbermann “rediscovered the role of journalism and that role is deeply informed judgment about people in power and about the morality of our country.”

Yikes. But perhaps the Newsweek vs. NPR journalist comparison isn’t precisely accurate. Liasson actually is a neutral newsperson who makes some effort to cover events fairly and to leave hyper-partisan invectives to others. She might be cheerily susceptible to liberal spin, but she’s not in the business of spinning for the Obami herself or gratuitously throwing jabs at the Right.

By contrast, the new Newsweek gang gave up “news” reporting a while ago. The entire publication is now devoted to Obama-hype and slams against the usual conservative suspects, those in biking shorts and with talk-radio shows in particular. Newsweek is, in effect, the MSNBC of the weekly “news” magazine world, minus the more extreme Republicans = Nazis formulations one hears on Countdown. So the real hypocrisy here is not only that the media elites see Liasson alone as violating some code of journalistic purity; it is that they accept the pretense that Newsweek is a news outlet rather than a liberal opinion journal in search of an audience.

Read Less




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