May 23, 2006
No Room at the Inn

Another lesson in why a skilled reader of newspapers always checks the end of the story first. The lead on this New York Times story was:

Richard Stengel, a long-time writer and editor at Time magazine and the former head of its Web site, was named its managing editor yesterday, the 16th person to hold the job in the magazine’s 83-year history.

Unless you happened to go to high school with Richard Stengel or give birth to him, you’re probably starting to yawn already. But hang in there to the end and you’ll learn:

Donald Barlett and James Steele, two investigative reporters who have chronicled the vicissitudes of the American economy for Time magazine since 1997, have lost their jobs in a budget squeeze.

The reporting duo, who together won two Pulitzer Prizes and two national magazine awards, were on the payroll of Time Inc. Their jobs were among about 650 that the company has eliminated in the last six months.

John Huey, editor in chief of Time Inc., said that as he cut corporate costs, he sought unsuccessfully to place the two men on the payroll of a company magazine.

“They’re very good but very expensive, and I couldn’t get anyone to take them on their budget,” Mr. Huey said.

That’s amazing. You’d think Bride to Be, to name just one of the company’s magazines, would have jumped at the chance to add the nation’s best investigative reporting team to its payroll. Or maybe Land Rover World or Bird Keeper or Essence or Entertainment Weekly or Rugby World or Popular Science or Field & Stream, or — wait a minute, sure! How about: Money?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at May 23, 2006 05:57 PM
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I've been mumbling about the same subject (and others). Here's a letter I wrote to Time on Monday:

Last month I wrote to you as follows:
Isn't Joe Klein supposed to be your "liberal" columnist?
If what Eric Alterman said is true: "Joe Klein shouted out, 'Well they [Democrats] won't if their message is that they hate America-which is what has been the message of the liberal wing of the party for the past twenty years,'" then you need to either fire Klein or commit him to a good rehab clinic; alcoholism and working for you under false colors are the only two plausible reasons for his outburst that I can come up with.
And if you really do want a liberal columnist, then let me know. I'd be willing to apply.

Now, I've read the following:
Two Investigative Reporters Leave
Donald Barlett and James Steele, two investigative reporters who have chronicled the vicissitudes of the American economy for Time
magazine since 1997, have lost their jobs in a budget squeeze.
The reporting duo, who together won two Pulitzer Prizes and two national magazine awards, were on the payroll of Time Inc. Their jobs were among about 650 that the company has eliminated in the last six months.
John Huey, editor in chief of Time Inc., said that as he cut corporate costs, he sought unsuccessfully to place the two men on the payroll of a company magazine.
"They're very good but very expensive, and I couldn't get anyone to take them on their budget," Mr. Huey said. "We'll miss their work."
Mr. Steele, 63, who began working with Mr. Barlett, 69, at The
Philadelphia Inquirer in 1971, said: "We've had a great run at Time, but apparently the decision was made at the corporate level not to fund this kind of work."

When I lived in Philadelphia, I bought the Inquirer only when a "Bartlett & Steele" series was running. At present, I buy Time magazine only when it features their work. As "very expensive" as their work might be (they actually do research instead of just chumming around with Beltway insiders), I bet you pay Joe Klein more, even though he spends most of his time pontificating witlessly on TV talkshows and various panels and little of it slapping together a column for you. So, fire Joe Klein and spend his wasted paycheck on rehiring Bartlett and Steele.
If you really feel you need a "liberal" columnist to proclaim yourselves fair and balanced, I'm available cheap.


So, Mr. Doolittle, what do you think? Will you offer them a venue?

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on May 23, 2006 7:06 PM

Strange coincidence.

Mrs. Alternative actually wrote the above on Monday; she's not kidding.

Posted by: Mr. Alternative on May 23, 2006 7:23 PM

Give me a call, guys. I pay in the high single digits, once a year.

Posted by: Jerry Doolittle on May 23, 2006 9:08 PM

Why does "Its all about the Benjamins" come to mind. Fuck quality reporting. Keep your eye on the bottom line.

Posted by: spiiderweb on May 23, 2006 11:26 PM

Please mentally place this "?" in the appropriate place on my last comment.

Posted by: spiiderweb on May 23, 2006 11:28 PM

I've known it for some time, but we are doomed, folks. The journalists are history, the politicians are making their own sordid history, and we can't even count on the ballot in our carefully gerrymandered districts counting for the critter we cast it for.

Terry Gross had an interview with a journalist (apparently of the old school variety who goes out and talks to people) about why Congress has become dysfunctional: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5425307

Read it and weep till bloody tears run down your cheeks.

Posted by: Lucy from the House of Joy & Truck Stop on May 24, 2006 1:53 AM
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