Serious Newsweekly Smackdown

As an aside, going back to that Time magazine cover story for a moment, I was a little surprised at the tide of snarky reaction to their "Person of the Year" choice (even the Ad Age piece I mentioned below refers to Time's choice as "widely reviled").

One of the most unnecessarily mean-spirited reactions was in the "Bad news" column of the Jan 1st Maclean's magazine. It seems impossible to get at their print archives online, but here's what the piece said:

Time magazine decided to award its Person of the Year distinction to "you" this year, marking a low point for the venerable franchise. Not only did it miss the cultural shift brought on by the Internet age by at least a year, it over-looked many other potentially worthy recipients, from Donald Rumsfeld and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to Pope Benedict XVI and Vladimir Putin. Where do you go once you’ve named "everybody" the person of the year? Time is in the midst of a redesign and a shift to pre-weekend delivery, following a move made by Maclean's this year. We wish them well and look forward to seeing Time rejoin the ranks of serious newsweeklies.

Why so snarky? I spent a couple of hours of my Christmas downtime actually reading the "widely reviled" Time magazine cover story. It's a generally solid, interesting piece of journalism, and I really enjoyed it. OK, so the choice of "you" could indeed be considered a bandwagon-jumping publicity stunt - but if you actually take the time to read the whole piece, it's pretty good stuff.

What really chafes about Maclean's bitter little philippic, however, is all that smug nonsense about Time rejoining "the ranks of serious newsweeklies" and the patently absurd suggestion that Time's ongoing redesign and shift in publishing schedule is in some way "following" Maclean's lead.

Look - I really like the work they've been doing to revitalize Maclean's over the past year. In 2004, I'd almost completely stopped reading the thing, it had grown so tired and fusty. The current line up of columnists, and the overall zing of their revitalised editorial voice have made Maclean's, once more, a must read weekly for me.

And yet editors who live in glass houses should be awfully careful how they juggle their self-satisfied stones. The same issue in which Maclean's chooses to heap scorn on Time features a cover story titled "Why do we dress our daughters like skanks?" The cover photo is pure, disturbing cheesecake: a heavily-styled shot of an obviously underage girl, dressed as if she's an extra from a Britney Spears video shoot.

Classing your magazine as a "serious newsweekly" and simultaneously leading with a deliberately attention-grabbing, jailbait photo on your cover - that's just wrong.

Again - I'm enjoying the ongoing reinvention of Maclean's, for the most part. I wish them well and look forward to seeing them rejoin the ranks of the serious newsweeklies.