Newsmeek & Time to get a crotch

Time Magazine was at one time a little more relevant than…

Art Chantry (

Now, THIS is a NEWS magazine cover! it’s the August 20th, 1965, Time Magazine cover covering the Watts riots (as they eventually came to be called). Grainy b&w photojournalism. Immediacy and on the spot reporting. The headline is simply a ribbon/snipe in the upper right corner. Red border framing it all in fire. WHAM! NEWS!!! NOW!!!

I was stuck in an airport recently and bought a Newsweek magazine out of desperation to kill time. (actual ‘time’, not ‘Time, the magazine”). It was really ‘thin’ and very expensive (like 5 bucks.) The stories were little snips and often single paragraphs and the photos big (and the type seemed huge.) Lots of really clever ‘design’ everywhere. Bold headlines, fancy graphs, stenciled out photos, illustrations instead of photojournalism, all that arty design crap. I felt like I was reading a mutant crossbred child of USA Today (the ‘newpaper’ sold in vending machines shaped like tv sets) and People magazine. It was like a collection of sound bites with a few photo tossed in. Really really awful.

AC:i think ignorant design contributed heavily to that failure. with all the emphasis on appearance instead of content, information became just another cover up of something manipulative. i would love to see news magazines go back to that BLAST!! in your face of this 1965-era design... "life ain't pretty, take a look..."

Granted, NEWS magazines seem to be going away all together, replaced by internet immediacy and the 24hr. cable news cycle. But the response of these news magazines to the challenge of the severe change in information culture is so confused. When faced with such oppressive and stiff competition, they respond with – what? Making the magazine LESS – less information, less depth, less news. The only MORE is in the most faddish shallow arenas – appearance and celebrity.

It’s like the news magazines’ response in the face of the enemy is to try to become the enemy and slip past them, rather than define themselves as separate and superior. They took what they did well – real in-depth sophisticated weekly news information and analysis – and tossed it out in favor of “looking pretty.” Sure, you can read one of those things things now in a just a few minutes – just like reading the sound bites that pass for news in USA Today (like watching cable news.) But, the real information analysis and MEAT is barely there. We all seem to have agreed to call this phenomenon ‘dumbing down’. Time and Newsweek have dumbed down to the point of idiocy and taken themselves out of the food chain- and they did it all by themselves. You really can’t blame the competition. This is Darwinian.

Every time I watch the local news or read a local paper I see endless references to websites for the ‘real depth’ of the story. It’s as if all of these cultural institutions have decided that their readership (and viewership) is so harried and stupid that they can’t be bothered with the full story anymore. So, they set up a website for the ‘in-depth’ coverage for those who actually think. That’s crazy! Why bother even buying the paper or tune in the tv station in the first place? It’s like they default to their competition and don’t even try to compete in the way only THEY can. It’s as if the railroads went under because they advertised all their trips could be much faster and cheaper by airplane. It’s that sort of thinking here – ass backwards.

AC:it's the october 2, 1964, edition of time magazine with a cover story about the resulting findings of the warren commission. it sports an extraordinary illustration by boris artzybasheff, one of the all time great unheralded illustrators in american history. boris was the very fists illustrator i ever really noticed. when i was around 5 years old, i would cut his images out of magazines and tape them to my clothes (and pretend to be a space pirate or some damned thing). i really did!

Tonight I’m meeting with a group of people who are thinking about starting a magazine or newspaper or some sort of physical tangible instrument of creative cultural information. I’m going to show up

talk about important it is to make it a ‘collectible’. So sad. The only way we can reverse this tide of change even slightly is to appeal to the primal hunter/gathering instinct of the potential customer. But, when you look at the situation, what else is left? The ‘professionals’ already gave away the store.


Art Chantry:frankly, the lousy design and vision of the contemporary news media makes us all distrust it as frivolous and callous. thus, your comment. this really seems to be a case where ‘design’ (aka, shallow trendy overkill) helped to ruin an important aspect of our community – information. graphics can severely impact and even outright obstruct facts. we all know that a graph is designed to lie to the viewer. when i see ‘overdone’ graphics, i automatically assume they’re covering up something else….

Read More:

…they’ve done it TO us and thereby done it to themselves….i make no claim to understand the various convoluted reasons WHY it became the way it is. but, i can plainly see the hole that they went for and the ‘whole’ they left behind. i think some very very bad decisions have been made that resulted in a loss for the entire information culture. designers contributed a lot of ignorant bad choices as well. if i have an area of expertise it’s in being able to read design language well enough to see the bad decisions very plainly.

---Dirk Barnett’s redesign of Newsweek, along with an interview: Tell us about your plan with infographics in the magazine. Infographics, another element killed off over the past few years at Newsweek, will definitely be coming back. While we plan to up the presence, we have no plans to blow them out in aBloomberg/Wired direction, our content just doesn’t require or sustain it (plus, Bloomberg Businessweek is killing it, who can compete with that?!). Rather, it will be a vital tool to telling elements of stories that photogrpahy or illustration just don’t nail. We have introduced a new page, DataBeast, that will give us the opportunity to do a weekly infogrpahic on various subjects--- Read More:


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