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Newsweek’s move to online reflects content choices

While Newsweek’s announcement of eliminating its print product and cutting jobs starting in January 2013 has resulted in media moguls crawling out of the woodwork to declare the death of the weekly print magazine or forebode an untimely end to print media, perhaps it is only desperate journalism, not quality journalism, that no longer has a place in society.
Newsweek has changed editorship in recent years, and while struggling to stay afloat amid annual losses and low circulation, has turned to distasteful measures to stay “relevant” in an Internet-dominant culture.?
Recent publication decisions certainly sparked discussion during the past year, though perhaps for the wrong reasons.
From bold covers with images of angry Arab men and the words “Muslim rage” emblazoned above their heads to rainbow halos dubbing President Barack Obama the “first gay president” to images of a grown child suckling his mother’s breast to an article written as though Princess Diana was still alive, controversy has not been something Newsweek has shied away from.
But making the news is not the function of a news organization – telling it is, and it is only through meaningful storytelling that a publication can stay relevant. While unfortunate pressures for ratings haunt television stations and pressures for circulation rates are constantly nipping at the heels of print products, news organizations must bear in mind this primary, vital function as they serve to remain relevant.
Newsweek didn’t have to go out this way.
According to the Pew Research Center’s 2012 State of the News Media report, readership for Newsweek has drastically fallen in recent years, with circulation rates less than half of what they were in 2001. The Economist, by contrast, a much more somber and seemingly boring publication by jaw-dropping cover standards, has seen it’s readership increase since 2001, though it still has a lower circulation rate than Newsweek.
But Newsweek’s struggles may not be over simply because it is changing the primary medium through which it will interact with readers.
News publications do not need to prove they are radical to stay alive, and perhaps Newsweek’s problems have more to do with its content than with the format of print media itself.
While the Internet offers endless niches and sub-hubs to seek news from in specialized topics, news organizations need to prove they are relevant by focusing on coverage and relevance, as The Economist has done through its extensive, in-depth analysis through the debt crisis or as The New Yorker, which has seen circulation more than double since 2001, has done with its social and political commentary.