The end of this month not only marks the conclusion of 2012, but also the grand finale of Newsweek’s run as a print magazine. The current issue, out now, features a vintage photo of the old New York Newsweek offices with a hashtag title “Last Print Issue.” It’s a great cover and title, one that marks the end of the era and marks the age of social media and e-readers. The issue was first made available through e-reader tablets, and starting in 2013, the magazine will only be available online through a fee. The editor, Tina Brown, believes this is the only way to sustain the magazine. The final print issue is worth reading, if you have any interest in journalism and media. It features an oral history of the publication and some lengthy essays by current and past editors and writers about covering some of the biggest stories of the last 80 years since the magazine started, including the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement, AIDs, and 9/11.
When I was an undergraduate student and had a minor in journalism, I had a particular reading habit and routine. Every weekend, I would stop at a local Barnes ‘n Noble in the Philly area where I was living at the time and read copies of The New Yorker, Time, The Nation, and Newsweek, since I didn’t have money to subscribe to them. For a few years, I really enjoyed Newsweek, especially for its political reporting and photojournalism. Newsweek is certainly one of the reasons I became so interested in politics, but over the years, especially since Brown took over, I enjoyed it less and less. The covers became too sensational, especially in the last two years or so, with titles such as “Is Heaven Real?” and “Hit the Road, Barack.” The number of words per article shrank and shrank, replaced by a lot of ads, and so did a lot of the a colorful photos. Now, the magazine is a shell of what it used to be. I’m skeptical that Brown will be able to save it from extinction by making it web only and charging a fee for its content. I doubt people will pay for the online version, especially since a lot of other publications can be read online for free, including The New York Times and Washington Post. However, I’ll miss sitting down at a local cafe with a cup of tea and reading the magazine, or at least what the magazine used to be. I hope Time, The New Yorker, and other print magazines I read ever week stay in business a while. When publications go online, I tend to forget about them and no longer read them. I assume that will be the case for a lot of Newsweek readers.