Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Whither the Weekly Newsmagazine?

Anthony Wilson-Smith has quit as editor of Maclean's, which is no big surprise. The scuttlebutt over the past coupla months has been that Ken Whyte -- founding editor-in-chief of the National Post -- would be taking the editor position there sometime around February.

Wilson-Smith, the Paul Bunyon of Canadian journalism (he must be like 9 feet tall or something), did some very good things for Maclean's, for instance hiring Paul Wells as the back page columnist. But there's not a lot you can do when you're weathering cuts of $2 million to the editorial budget.

There is a "common wisdom" theory that in the age of 24/7 news on the Internet, the newsmagazine is a relic of an ancient time when people could wait 'til the weekend to read the week's news and horses and buggies filled the streets. I think that's pretty much bunk -- you could say the same thing about newspapers -- but then again I don't read weekly newsmagazines...

In the Toronto Star article, Wilson-Smith says that under his editorship the mag "moved from having a base philosophy of `reading the news here first' to `trying to tell you a little more than you already knew or trying to tell different off-track things.'" Yeah, that's what it seemed like...

Here's hoping Whyte or whoever takes over figures out how to make Maclean's relevant once again. Whether that's by turning it into a general interest magazine, or doing a lot of service journalism and "guides" like their popular University Rankings issue, or -- cross your fingers, but don't hold your breath -- restocking their foreign bureaus (and, for that matter, Canadian bureaus) and outreporting the dailies...

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