July 8, 2003

The Guardian is coming, the Guardian is coming

The launch of a U.S. edition of the unabashedly liberal Guardian may be just what the Bush-whacked U.S. press needs.

"... It struck me first that—even given the Guardian’s campus chic-ness—the U.S. has never been less receptive to the European point of view than it is now. By any measure, to be successful in the U.S. news business is to be staunch, patriotic, defensive. It’s Fox or bust. And it struck me even more forcefully that beyond the difficulties of liberalness, the prospects for literate media—the Guardian being a writer’s paper—were, as everybody knew, nil.

"Then, during the next break in the conference, Rusbridger took me across the street to his office and showed me the prototype for the new American Guardian. Its tentative form is as a weekly magazine, quite unlike any other weekly magazine that has been started in the U.S. in the past generation. Not only is it about politics (Rusbridger is looking to launch in the winter to cover the presidential-primary season), but the magazine—meant to be 60 percent derived from the Guardian itself, with the rest to come from American contributors—has a great deal of text unbroken by design elements. This is almost an extreme notion. Quite the antithesis of what virtually every publishing professional would tell you is the key to popular and profitable publishing—having less to read, not more. Even with the Guardian’s signature sans-serif face, it looks like an old-fashioned magazine. Polemical. Written. Excessive. Contentious. Even long-winded."
"But meanwhile, the Fox-led conservative fatwa—or merely its clever marketing ploy—against liberal media has largely purged the slightest liberal inclination from the media, meaning there’s a yawning market hole. Between the New York Times and liberal trade magazines like The New Republic and The Nation, there’s nothing. It’s an open field. The very down-and-out-ness of left-leaning media, together with the great antipathy to smarties in America, means a blissful business condition of absolutely no competition at all. What’s more, the left wing in America has always had terrible packaging skills.

"These are, of course, dark days for liberals (out-Foxed, Bush-whacked) and for magazine people (more celebrities, more “elements,” fewer words), so it is natural to latch onto any potential sign of a Renaissance."
"And now there’s the prospect of a genuine, old-fashioned, hire-some-good-writers-and-give-them-space-to-write, rough-up-the-president-and-the-nabobs magazine."


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