Thursday, March 5, 2015

All The Most ? Of International Opinion: The Week!

The Good: Some well-culled articles, Interesting opinions, Delightfully low on ads
The Bad: No original reporting, Old news, Poor labeling of source’s authority
The Basics: Reprinting quite a range of opinion and soft news pieces from around the world, The Week is a hard-sell for a magazine in a world with trending topics on social media.

As a last-minute holiday gift last year, my father gave me a gift subscription to The Week. By that, I mean that everything else had been delivered when all of a sudden, I started getting The Week and I got a card announcing the gift subscription (he may have had it planned for months). I think it’s sweet that my father – who has long encouraged me to “get a real job” and “grow up and get into a career” which would offer me some stability – thinks that I have time to sit and read magazines as I wheel and deal, scrimp and move money around to try to pay the monthly bills on time. Self-employed people might seem like they have it made by not being bound to schedules, but the burden is on us to actually make and meet deadlines and that leaves me with a growing reading pile that now includes a weekly magazine.

But perhaps my father knew of my lifestyle’s inherent drawback when he gave me the gift subscription to The Week. Instead of getting me a subscription to a lengthy, wordy magazine that would engage and challenge me, he gave me a subscription to The Week, which seems to be the world news equivalent of Reader’s Digest (reviewed here!).

The Week is a 38 page magazine which reprints selections from other publications each week with little more depth than the “Trending Topics” column on Facebook. Major news stories are broken down into one to five paragraph blurbs that tend to give a very limited accounting of what the event being reported is before presenting well-culled opinions on the story. As a result, a paragraph in the average The Week article will elaborate on the headline before various pundits are quoted with their opinions on that story. The result is a publication that does not look for facts, subtlety or depth; this is not where one goes for a chain of evidence that exposes the next breaking story or scandal. The Week is barely where one would go to learn about opposing opinions on the trending topics from last week.

What readers can expect in The Week then are news blurbs that are a week old and other people’s opinions on them. While The Week might cull from respectable news sources, the full list of citations requires a trip to the website for the publication. I find that problematic because the mix of people cited within The Week seems to range from experts in the field to pundits with no clear authority on the subject being given equal weight. So, for example, in the March 6, 2015 issue of The Week, an article on Russia and the Ukraine cites opinions from Andrew Korybko, Rotislav Ischenko, Dmitriy Korotkov, and Andrei Lipsky with about equal weight and space for their opinions. Having absolutely no prior knowledge of anything about the situation in the Ukraine, it was virtually impossible to read the three paragraph “article” and come away with either an opinion or a sense that I even had any facts. Four pundits are quoted using judgmental terms – “illegal overthrow,” “neo-Nazi,” “anarchic” – and vague opinion-based words (“surely,” “probably,” “seamy”) and, despite their publications being cited, I have absolutely no knowledge of the veracity of any of their claims. The summary line that declares that there is now “proof” falls dramatically short of that assertion based on the text that precedes it. In other words, a bunch of people I’ve never heard of (Are they reporters? Pundits? Government officials? Whistleblowers with top secret clearance?) writing for magazines, newspapers and websites I’ve never heard of are writing opinions about a subject only vaguely detailed in The Week and I’m supposed to come away from it . . . informed? Convinced? Opinionated? Emotionally affected? At the end of reading the “article,” I am no more informed or educated than I was after reading the headline.

I was going to write more about The Week (about how few advertisements were in it, though I was going to object that their “best properties on the market” was essentially free advertising for the real estate agents they covered, how laughable their entertainment coverage was, etc.), but in this case, that says it all for the magazine. The Week is a glorified Facebook Trending Topics feed (with the top three comments) in printed form. Now I just hope my father didn’t overpay for the subscription . . .

For other magazines reviewed by me, please check out my take on:
The Bark
American Baby


For other book and magazine reviews, please visit my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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