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Kinsley on Newsweek -- and on Time's editor

Posted by Christopher Shea  May 22, 2009 02:10 PM

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Time magazine dumped Michael Kinsley as a columnist? This is the first I've heard of it. I rarely see Time, and so never get to read Kinsley there -- but someone needs to be publishing him, always.

Kinsley's outlet this week is the New Republic, his old haunts: he eviscerates Newsweek's much-talked-about (by itself) reinvention.

Kinsley is quite aware that bashing the No. 2 newsweekly after you've just lost your perch at No. 1 is not the wisest career strategy. But he does slip in a word of praise for Newsweek's editor, Jon Meacham, along with a characteristically arch dig at Rick Stengel, Time's editor:

Meacham -- a very smart and thoughtful guy, which in my experience is not necessarily true of all newsmagazine editors (all two, that is) …

Nicely played: Not too bitter, but still a dagger (aimed at a fellow Rhodes Scholar, no less).

Anyway, as Kinsley sees it, here's the basic problem with Meacham's goal for Newsweek:

He says he wants "provocative (but not partisan) arguments." Which would be what? "Let's paint the Capitol dome dark brown"? Or, "Try cooked carrots--they're not too bad"? It's not easy to be provocative if you're looking over your shoulder for the partisanship police.

There's no need to speculate about what these provocative-but-nonpartisan arguments will look like, since newsweeklies have been making them for ages. In fact, these arguments are never remotely provocative. They're safe, centrist, even pandering: "Memo to politicians: Time to stop the mudslinging -- and solve our fiscal problems." "Prayer: It may be better than a prescription, doctors say." If Meacham can break that mold, more power to him, but there's little evidence of it so far.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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