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April 3, 2008
Newsweek's Hirsh Ambushes McCain
Last July, Newsweek's Michael Hirsh lamented the apparent collapse of John McCain's candidacy as illustrative of the "sad fact of political life in Washington" that Americans don't want former military people for presidents. Last week, the same Hirsh ambushed McCain.
Last July, Hirsh credited McCain for being "dead on in his analysis of what went wrong in Iraq."
("Foreordained"? Like by God?)
The final magnanimous sentence of Hirsh's July piece on poor John McCain read:
Then, last week, in his Newsweek article entitled "The World According to John McCain" (a spin on The World According to Garp?), Hirsh spent most of the piece projecting a negative image of the man who deserved another chance.
Quoting from McCain's recent speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Hirsh's first two sentences set the tone of his article.
A calm, deliberate listener is not the image of McCain that Hirsh -- who reads minds -- is selling. So, of course, McCain would marvel at his own conciliatory words. What Hirsh is selling comes in the next paragraph.
Much of what follows is a line-up of dubious witnesses, hidden behind dark screens, testifying to McCain's alleged instability.
There's much more, but you get the idea. Hirsh's article is a character ambush full of anonymous sources. It's an example of bias journalism replete with innuendos built around incendiary words such as "fierce," "haunts," "emotional," "renewed questions," and "image problem."
Hirsh gets a check from Newsweek, but he should invoice the Democratic National Committee. Here he is writing in his own voice:
In the last sentence of Hirsh's diagnosis of the Dr. Jeckle - Mr. Hyde split-personality battle underway for the mind of John McCain, he leaves the reader to ponder whether McCain would be his "consummate pragmatist" self, or a "zealous crusader for causes he feels just."
How about this answer: It will depend on the situation.
So why does Newsweek magazine print this stuff? To influence an election, for sure. But also to sell magazines and make money. And how is that going? Not great.
The moderate increase last year in all weekly magazine circulation is being driven by celebrity titles. Magazine buyers are eager to read about Britney Spears and who's having whose baby. Us Weekly and OK! are doing just fine. But TIME magazine's circulation dropped 17.57% in 2007 in paid and verified circulation, and decreased 19.4% in single copy sales.
Newsweek sales, though, remained unchanged in 2007. But wait, the U.S. is growing at a yearly rate of about 2,500,000, so unchanged equals declining when measured against an expanding market. And, just this week, we learned that 111 of 146 Newsweek staffers offered a buyout have accepted. Top political writers Jonathan Alter and Howard Fineman (who once referred to Hillary Clinton as the smartest candidate among the Democrats) were offered buyouts, but declined.
Unidentified sources, who wish to remain anonymous, have not yet said whether critics of Michael Hirsch's articles have serious questions about his name being on Newsweek's next buyout-offer list.