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I’m embarrassed to say that it’s been years since I’ve read Newsweek, so I may be the last to have noticed, but Newsweek is no longer a news magazine.

I picked up the June 16 issue somewhere for free — on a shuttle flight, I think — and thumbed through the offbeat, humorous, human-interest features, only to find myself at the back cover. Important note: I grabbed it because Stephen Colbert was advertised on the cover as “guest editor,” although except for a couple of funny essays, I don’t think that actually affected the content.

Newsweek and Time used to be your way to catch up on the week’s news. They covered the news. This particular issue of Newsweek made no such attempt. Rather, it had a theme: Iraq. The articles, in a 27-page section called “Features” (in a 68-page issue) included a photo essay, an essay on “how we’ll know we’ve won,” speculation on how we might commemorate the war, and articles on video games, West Point grads who are worried they’ll miss the war, families disrupted by deployments, Canada’s attitude towards conscientious objectors, soldiers who love battle, and a backgrounder on Iraq vs. Iran. Some of these were interesting articles, but they weren’t news of the week’s happenings.

As for coverage of events outside of Iraq: None…unless it made it into one of the fun sections, like the humorous quotes of the week.

The rest of the issue reads like blog posts: opinions, reviews, provocative essays, bright little snippets.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Coverage is one of those big, ingrained ideas that actually make little sense — like objectivity, except coverage makes much less sense than that. Newsweek’s problem is that now that it’s lost its news-in-a-capsule medicinal prescription, will people take the weekly dose, since it’s now competing with the monthlies (The Atlantic, Harpers, etc.) and even with the Sunday magazine that comes with your newspaper?

I doubt it. But it’s not like I have a better idea. With news now spreading at the speed of typing, would anyone today start a magazine that reports on what happened last week? Newsweek is right to decide that rather than attempting coverage it will focus on being interesting. The problem is that there’s an over-supply of interesting now, and it is likely to remain a buyer’s market.

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