Jack Shafer argues that against all odds, the Beastweek merger may work:
Tina Brown possesses more moxie, daring, shrewdness, and big-top showmanship than any editor of the last half-century. Compared with Brown, Jann Wenner is a second-string maracas player; Hugh Hefner a prude; Graydon Carter a big, dumb forehead; Louis Rossetto a KayPro; Andre Laguerre* a minor leaguer; and Harold Hayes a William Shawn. What editor in the history of magazines has set three titles on absolute fire? Brown did just that with Tatler, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, before, um, burning down her heavily bankrolled (by vanity press mogul Harvey Weinstein) fin de siècle monthly Talk...
Yesterday, nobody cared squat about Newsweek. Today, the press is filled with jabber and curiosity about a magazine most of us had given up for dead.
While I'm not suggesting that Brown turn Newsweek into the Journal of Brangelina Studies, I'd encourage her to rely on the high-low culture mix that made The New Yorker so damnably interesting during her runand take it even lower. Readers will follow, even if Time won't.
Speaking of Time, which competes in Newsweek's space, Brown should never aspire to be like it, or the other newsweeklies, the Economist and the Week. We don't need another Time, Economist, or the Week because we already have one of each. Let Newsweek separate itself from the pack by becoming more combative, more outrageous, more judgmental, and more wicked than the others. Violate the orthodoxy! Totally de-Meachamize it! On Week 1, piss off the White House. Week 2, the Pentagon. Week 3, Wall Street. Then the unions, Harvard, religion, life-insurance agents, the green movement, and so on until the bottom is reached with an exposé of Little League baseball. Then repeat. According to H.L. Mencken, "The liberation of the human mind has been best furthered by gay fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries. …" I want, very much, for Tina Brown to be that sort of cat-slinger.
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