Last week, Michael Kinsley wrote a brutal takedown of the redesigned Newsweek , attacking it page by page and graph by graph for failing to be readers’ “guide through the chaos of the Information Age.” It’s something that editor Jon Meacham wrote in the editor’s note that the new Newsweek would not “pretend” to be, and that Kinsley thinks newsmagazines totally need to be in order to survive. The assessment was shrewd, but perhaps needlessly vicious, as noted in New York ‘s Jessica Pressler’s response, titled: ” Michael Kinsley Attacks the New Newsweek , and We Feel Bad About It .” (Full disclosure: I’m particularly sympathetic to Newsweek , since I used to work there. Plus it’s owned by the same company that owns Double X .)
But if the new Newsweek ‘s inaugural issue falls short of making sense of the week’s chaos, I wonder what Kinsley makes of the New York Times today, which ran an article-ON THE FRONT PAGE, and with a jump to the highly coveted A3 page-about teenagers hugging . That’s it. Just, you know, talking about the ways that they hug (“the basic friend hug,” “the hug that starts with a high-five,” “the hug from behind”) and how they feel about hugging ("We’re not afraid, we just get in and hug”).
The whole thing reads like an Onion parody of what Slate ‘s Jack Shafer mocks as the bogus trend story . It’s what we’ve come to expect of the Thursday style section, which has featured dubious trend-spotting since its inception . But this is the front page. Of the frickin’ New York Times . Enter Kinsley’s biting assessment of Newsweek, which feels equally applicable here:
[W]hile it’s not impossible to get readers by peddling sheer enjoyment, it’s a lot easier to peddle necessity, or at least usefulness: You need this magazine to sort out the world for you and to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
We need to need newspapers, too, if they’re going to survive-which is something I desperately want, not just because I’m in the industry but because it freaks me out to think of a world without them, as it does Double X reader Sophie . And stuff like this-
Girls embracing girls, girls embracing boys, boys embracing each other-the hug has become the favorite social greeting when teenagers meet or part these days.
-is hardly the stuff we need.