Remembering Newsweek’s Glory Days

Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam writes of his first job in journalism, at “now-foundering Newsweek,” which he describes as being “like an upside-down journalism school, where I learned an astonishing number of bad habits.” But it clearly gave him some valuable insights into how corporate journalism works:

I was an editorial assistant/fact-checker, with duties analogous to those of an 18th-century cabin boy in the Royal Navy…. In addition to pouring vodka I checked facts, a process that left me bleakly cynical about journalistic accuracy. We would publish whole stories that were lies–Francois Mitterrand’s plan to destroy the French economy was a recurring theme–but at least the names were spelled correctly. Two Ts, two Rs. I will never forget.

He also describes 1970s-era Newsweek‘s Cold War crusade, featuring the work of a future editor of the Washington Times:

We printed many “exclusives” by a remarkably tanned, anti-Communist crusader named Arnaud de Borchgrave, known as “the little count.” De Borchgrave would announce his masterpieces with the antiquated phrase “Three bells!” an allusion to the old wire-service tickers which used to chime bells touting stories of capital importance. Everyone laughed at de Borchgrave’s copy, but we printed it anyway.

And there you have what is meant by “liberal media”: Publishing right-wing propaganda, but privately making fun of it.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.