the economist gap

March 16, 2007 at 3:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Economist: Everyone Copies It, But Does Anyone Translate It?

As Time begins to ride the wave of publicity surrounding their aspirationally “The Economist”-style redesign , The New York Observer (in the midst of a drastic reworking itself) has weighed in with an acid commentary. Tom Scocca lays the groundwork well, quoting a few of the other editors in chiefs over the past few years looking to smarten up their titles. He then dissects a recent issue of the Economist, picking apart jejune turns of phrase, tendentious prose, and brilliantly critiquing the price:

The Economist is priced at $5.99. A magazine for more than $5 is like a sandwich for more than $10: It needs to be appetizing enough to make the sale, and filling enough that you don’t feel ripped off afterward.

My favorite quote (from 1991, by the now-current editor of Time):

“Americans imagine that The Economist is better written,” Mr. Stengel said, “because they impute an English accent to what they read.”

He concludes:

The audience for [The Economist] is not people who care about the world, but people who believe it is important to care about the world. When other magazines say they want to be like The Economist, they do not mean they wish to be serious. They mean they wish, by whatever means, to be taken seriously.

These I really like the way this take-down was written, and I think there is a lot of truth in it. Still, I think one aspect Scocca doesn’t address is, frankly, what I thought editors meant by “more The Economist” was “less lifestyle, more news-news”. There are so many print magazines covering lifestyle now, let alone the Black Angus-style overfed glut of celebrity stalker blogs, does lifestyle or celebrity coverage have any place in a newsweekly? Of course most editors in the news business would like to be taken more seriously. While standing next to the Economist may not be the most scintillating experience, it would certainly be a more interesting, less purile conversation than one might have with most US newsweeklies.


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