In a magazine cover, we have a reflection of what's happening not only to the American economy but politics and journalism as well: a close-cropped half of a bearded face and the lines, "Obama Is Wrong: The loyal opposition of Paul Krugman."
Newsweek's story tells us about the economist-turned-pundit who "criticizes the Obamaites for trying to prop up a financial system that he regards as essentially a dead man walking," but also illustrates the desperation of newsweekly magazines to survive.
In financial straits, Newsweek has been cutting its circulation and redefining itself away from the traditional role of presenting the week's news with attitude. With so much of both available on the Internet and cable TV, Newsweek has chosen less news and more attitude.
"If we don’t have something original to say," editor Jon Meacham points out, "we won’t. The drill of chasing the week’s news to add a couple of hard-fought new details is not sustainable.”
The 21st century has not been kind to Henry Luce's invention of Time in the 1920s to make sense of "the million little chaoses of raw news." In a 24/7 tower of babble, Americans no longer need a Voice from Above to tell them what it all means.
As Newsweek moves away from Time and US News, it will be competing for eyeballs and ads with such as the Economist, the New Yorker and Atlantic in telling readers what they don't know they want to know until they see it in a magazine.
The Krugman story is a promising start, a profile of a quirky Nobel Prize winner who keeps offering those in power reality checks and ends thus:
"Krugman thinks that Obama needs some kind of 'wise man' to advise him and mentions Paul Volcker, the former Fed chairman who tamed inflation for Reagan and now heads an advisory panel for Obama. How about Krugman himself for that role? 'I'm not a backroom kind of guy,' he says, schlumped over in his Princeton office, which overflows with unopened mail. He describes himself as a 'born pessimist' and a 'natural rebel.' But he adds, 'What I have is a voice.' That he does."
In these parlous times, so does Newsweek, and we can use both.