Time magazine dumped Michael Kinsley as a columnist? This is the first I've heard of it. I rarely see Time, and so never get to read Kinsley there -- but someone needs to be publishing him, always.
Kinsley's outlet this week is the New Republic, his old haunts: he eviscerates Newsweek's much-talked-about (by itself) reinvention.
Kinsley is quite aware that bashing the No. 2 newsweekly after you've just lost your perch at No. 1 is not the wisest career strategy. But he does slip in a word of praise for Newsweek's editor, Jon Meacham, along with a characteristically arch dig at Rick Stengel, Time's editor:
Meacham -- a very smart and thoughtful guy, which in my experience is not necessarily true of all newsmagazine editors (all two, that is)
Nicely played: Not too bitter, but still a dagger (aimed at a fellow Rhodes Scholar, no less).
Anyway, as Kinsley sees it, here's the basic problem with Meacham's goal for Newsweek:
He says he wants "provocative (but not partisan) arguments." Which would be what? "Let's paint the Capitol dome dark brown"? Or, "Try cooked carrots--they're not too bad"? It's not easy to be provocative if you're looking over your shoulder for the partisanship police.
There's no need to speculate about what these provocative-but-nonpartisan arguments will look like, since newsweeklies have been making them for ages. In fact, these arguments are never remotely provocative. They're safe, centrist, even pandering: "Memo to politicians: Time to stop the mudslinging -- and solve our fiscal problems." "Prayer: It may be better than a prescription, doctors say." If Meacham can break that mold, more power to him, but there's little evidence of it so far.
Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His last article for Ideas was about choosing Congress by lottery.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.