Journalistic Success Fails Public Discussion of Issues

Newsweek Obama Cover

Journalism represented by Newsweek’s anti-Obama cover may be a newsstand success, but short-term sales success may cost Newsweek and other mainstream news magazines in the long run. Newsweek received broad-based criticism over its “Hit the Road, Barack” cover story by Niall Ferguson. And the rage was directed at what seems to be poor journalistic treatment of facts.

In a recent review, “The magazine had become an august publication letting itself be used to misinform readers,” critics said, “stumbling down the road toward Irrelevance Blvd.” The “Hit the Road” piece itself was “a fantasy world of incorrect and tendentious facts” and “completely incoherent” as well as “absurd propaganda, not journalism.”

Yet the cover may have also been a newsstand hit. Sales were at record levels and the cover may find uses in advertising for Romney and the GOP. The Aug. 27 issue fostering a Romney victory “may have just knocked one out of the park on newsstand sales,” according to the Magazine Information Network, or MagNet, which tracks magazine sales. Newsweek’s newsstand average may be doubled with this publication. This Newsweek issue is on track to land among the title’s top three newsstand sellers since 2010, according to MagNet data. “All reports indicate the August 27th issue was a strong performer both in print at the newsstand and on tablet,” a spokesman said.

IPad edition downloads on the issue’s first day were 4.3 times higher than usual, the spokesman said.

Editor Tina Brown, who defended the cover story as part of an exchange of ideas, said readers appreciated the conversation. “The Newsweek cover is a place for robust debate and that’s clearly what excites readers too,” according to Ms. Brown.

It’s not about Democrat or Republican Values, it’s about journalism versus campaign rhetoric. Don’t criticize the “left-wing press” if a well-respected publication stoops to the same gutter. American voters need facts regarding real issues and not the rhetoric that campaign committees are seeking the few voters who will swing the results one way or the other. This issue proves that all media is suspect, but some more than others.