On the Failure of "News" Magazines

by Benjamin Domenech on 12:28 am September 2, 2010

[tweetmeme]

In early August, Esquire posted a hit piece about Newt Gingrich by one of their resident glowering cynical scribblers, John H. Richardson. The longish piece seems to have very little news in it — something about Gingrich’s group claiming more credit than it ought to when it comes to Georgia’s health reforms? That’s it? — but it did remind me of another reason magazines are dying off: it’s the filler.

Writers like Richardson are one of the reasons mags like Esquire are doomed to fail. He’s just a filler writer, an interviewer who takes interesting subjects and batters them around until they become morose, and turns his uninteresting subjects into elevated figures who speak in zen banalities that brim with hidden meaning. An awful reporter, this type is always stretching articles out, building whole paragraphs around weak ideas — gotta fill those pages.

This actually played out as it relates to the Gingrich story, with a correction from a reader. Richardson wrote: “It was the racism that threw me” about Gingrich, citing a repeated comment the former Speaker made in New Orleans about needing a president who “isn’t shooting three-point shots,” but leading. Richardson reads this as referencing a two year old incident, which leads him to conclude this is just another “fat white racist using code words to remind idiot Southerners Obama’s a black guy, scary scary.”

In reality, it’s because the comments Gingrich made were at the beginning of April, and any sports fan or watcher of morning television doubtlessly remembers this little bit of embarrassing footage. It’s called Google — use it.

These overlong navel-gazing light-on-facts profiles are one thing I won’t miss when these pubs are dead and gone. You don’t need filler on the internet.

Follow Ben Domenech on Twitter.

Previous post:

Next post: