A Message to Newsweek

October 26, 2012

Multiple Pages
A Message to Newsweek

The first copy of Newsweek I ever read was shortly after German reunification when I was able to get my hands on one of its international issues. What I expected was an unbiased account of events as they transpired throughout the globe. What I found was the most vile, inarticulate, often blatantly nonfactual, and clearly anti-American filth I had ever seen.

Ever since, I have been eagerly anticipating Newsweek’s demise as a publication (and admittedly, the demise of more than a few of the Newsweek “writers” themselves).
Newsweek and its contemporaries were and are replete with hordes of puerile essayists scribbling what equates to a self-important high-school newspaper. It shall be a strange new Earth and even more odd humanity into which these shallow souls emerge from their cocoons of adolescent attitudes.
Thus, with the happy tidings that one of the two most juvenile publications in existence had finally folded it occurred to me that someone in what is contemptuously referred to as “the real world” ought offer a few pointers for the displaced on integrating into the workplace.

“Your wisdom has been nothing but ‘conventional wisdom,’ which isn’t wise at all.”

These coming weeks are going to be a difficult time for many of you. Wondering where your next paycheck will come from, how to keep up to date in this world which is more news minute than it is news week, and what form your storytelling should take will all be enormous challenges. With that in mind, I’ve accumulated a few tips on how to reorder your thinking now that the last class bell has sounded.
First and foremost, you’ll have to start telling the truth. You’re aghast, I know. But out here in the digital frontier the patrons have one overriding need above all—they want what you tell them to be accurate. Of course there is room for opinion and editorial commentary, but alas, that too must be well-documented and established upon some fundamental reality.
No more can you blithely argue from authority that your outlook is correct merely because you proclaim it, slouched askew in your desk from the back of the room. Being the coolest kind in school was fine while it lasted, but pretentious insufferablility is no excuse for research, independent thinking, and what used to be referred to as journalism.
Secondly, on the Internet nothing is secret. I’ll pause until your mortarboard quits spinning….

You see, here in the electronic world people know what happens in the physical world. Recall back in 2007 when Americans quite literally decided whether they wanted to remain a nation, otherwise known as the Kennedy-McCain-Bush Amnesty?
You might remember you ran several stories supporting the invasion. Then, once the true American people won, the next issue had absolutely no mention of these debates anywhere in your publication.

It was a pathetic and sad exercise in the “popular kids” saying what was and wasn’t “cool.” Even what existed. You thought it didn’t matter and you ruled the hallways, so that was it. Except this isn’t acceptable behavior for adults. Despite what many in your (former) position say, those who seek their news from the Internet are in every way fully developed intellects. They know when so-called reporters cover things up or pretend they didn’t happen. For years you’ve been used to playing hooky with reality and it stops now.

Third, nobody cares about your resumé. Yes, that perfectly polished ecru-shaded cardstock masterpiece you’ve been honing for months is no more than the toilet paper you formerly used to “prank” our homesteads by covering up facts from the American public. On the Internet no one cares. I have many degrees from many fine universities and they mean nothing if I can’t make people think with what I write. Likewise, I have no qualms about reading commentary from a self-educated pauper in a studio apartment in the worst section of town…if he makes me think. That is the beauty of the Internet; it’s all about intelligence. No one cares what you wear, where you went to school, or any of the jobs you previously held or if you’ve ever held a job at all.

The only thing that matters is whether you tell the truth and if you make people think about that truth in an insightful manner. All the cocktail parties, “networking,” and “hanging out with the popular kids” of New York and Washington mean absolutely nothing here in the new media. We don’t care how “in” you are or how “out” you think we are. So take that gilt-edged resumé and pack it away with your letter jacket and all the other mementos that mean absolutely jack-squat to us.

Finally, it is a wide, wide world. Your name means nothing. (Especially if you are a filthy plagiarist.) It may have been important when you were roaming the campus of a suburban outpost of secondary education, but not anywhere else. All your accomplishments and accolades occurred in a microcosm that doesn’t amount to spit among the adults. There is a class president and valedictorian on every street corner these days. Your byline, snapshot, and past readership are as nothing.

On the Internet millions of people give outlandish opinions. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are extraordinarily few who bother to work hard and think in exceptional ways. Your past performance at Newsweek puts you decidedly among the former. Your wisdom has been nothing but “conventional wisdom,” which isn’t wise at all. Your insight has been propaganda, and it doesn’t sell. And if it didn’t sell on the newsstand it has even less chance of selling online.

Until December we have to sit through the mind-numbing commencement speeches and dicta on how important you were and what you meant to the profession. But really, we’re all just waiting for you to walk out the door.

Your time has past. But do not despair; there is always the thirty-year class reunion where you can lie about how important you became following your glory days. After all, lying is what you always did best.

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