Final Print Issue of Newsweek

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.

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An Anxious America

Newsweek has a great piece in its current issue about the current economic state of America and the growing anxiety among Americans. The article, written by David Frum, proposes the possibility that the golden age of America is over and the idea that every generation will do better than the previous one is eroding. The article is filled with compelling statistics to make the case, and a lot of them are alarming. Here are some startling statistics regarding young people.

According to Frum’s article, families headed by people under 35 are 70 percent poorer today than they were in 1984, due to lower wages, student debt, and more expensive housing. As of 2010, students that borrowed money to finance their education had an average debt of $25,000. Meanwhile, that same year, the unemployment rate for college grads hit 9.1 percent. This does not count the countless number of grads underemployed.  Meanwhile, two-thirds of young Americans don’t complete college, and for high school graduates with no college degree, the job situation is even more dire. Frum writes, “They  earn less, in nominal dollars, than their counterparts of 40 years ago. They are far less likely to be protected by health insurance. Their chances of marrying, staying married, and being happy within marriage have all collapsed compared with a generation ago.”

The end of the article points out that during the last great economic crisis, in 1929 into the 1930s, there was much more government action in the form of the New Deal and other innovations. But, as Frum points out, it’s not likely anything like that will be proposed again, at least not in this era, due to the anti-government stance the GOP has adopted and the likelihood that that party will at least still control the House of Representatives after the fall election.  As a political junkie, I’m also betting that the GOP has a decent chance of winning the Senate too, due to the fact the Dems have a slim majority there, and they have to defend 24 seats, far fewer than the GOP. But I’m betting on President Obama winning re-election. However, his plans to improve the economy, largely through raising taxes on the wealthiest of Americans, will be stymied with a GOP-controlled Congress. They’ve already blocked several of his jobs  and tax bills over the last three and a half years.

Frum ends the article with a haunting assessment, writing, “Many today fear that a new America is being shaped in this economic crisis-an America in which only a talented and fortunate few will find opportunities on a global scale, while the working many will experience a long slow decline in their living standards and life chances. Many fear that the days when it meant something special to be an American are drawing to a close.”

He also poses the question that if indeed the golden age of America is over, then what will the future look like? Will college students continue to be saddled with debt and unable to find full-time jobs that lead to a comfortable middle-class life? Will people without college degrees, especially young white males, struggle because there are fewer manufacturing jobs than there were decades ago?

If the economy does improve, it seems unlikely it will happen within the next year or two. July’s job report showed that 160,000 new jobs were added, about 60,000 more than expected, but the jobs reports from the previous two months were dismal. Frum predicts it will be at least another half a decade until the U.S. is back to nearly full employment. Meanwhile,  how will America be shaped and defined in that long stretch of time? It’s clear that this ongoing economic crisis/recovery is going to have a lasting impact, especially in regards to the outlook and attitudes of Americans.

Yes, Obama Could Lose

In the most recent episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Maher offered an apt metaphor for the possibility that yes, Obama can lose the election. He admitted that the GOP has been ruining its brand as of late, due to the long primary battle and the fight over birth control and women’s reproductive rights, but Maher compared the GOP to a horror movie slasher that won’t die. First, the hand starts moving, and then the whole corpse  comes back to life. As Maher pointed out, the GOP will eventually ends its primary season, probably quite soon if Romney wins a majority of the states this Tuesday (a Super Tuesday race). Then, the party will coalesce around the nominee and work on defeating Obama. The Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires will pour millions into Super PACS to unseat the president.

Maher’s comments reminded me of friends who believe Obama will definitely win re-election.  As an Obama supporter and someone currently working with his campaign in Luzerene County, I have told friends time and time again that the president can indeed lose re-election. The GOP may be in disarray now, but they will unite to defeat him.

Even Paul Begala, a major Democratic strategist, wrote in his column in the new issue of Newsweek that this election may very well be a toss up. Begala points out that there are a few foreign policy factors that can upend the election. He cites the Iran nuclear issue and skyrocketing oil prices as two major factors, as well as uncertainty and possible conflict in Pakistan. He also envisions the GOP uniting once the primary season is over. He writes, “The GOP will unify. Where once their central organizing principle was opposing communism, now it is opposing Barack Obama. As long as he is on the ballot, the Republicans will be able to reunite. There is not much the White House can do about that. The reality is the GOP demolition derby will end soon enough, and the president will be in a neck-and-neck race all year.”

The Election is still about 8 months away, and in a lot of ways, it feels much more important than it did in 2008, due to all of the problems facing this country, including growing income inequality, high unemployment, and impending foreign policy issues. Months ago, Obama started laying the groundwork for his campaign. Even here in NEPA, an office has already opened in Scranton and one is set to open soon in Wilkes-Barre. The White House must know that the landscape this time will be different than it was in 2008 and nothing is certain, especially since the economy is still fragile and serious foreign policy challenges loom.

It makes the canvassing and voter registration drives all that more important.