Amazingly, there are some j-school grads who don’t have jobs

July 5th, 2006 → 9:21 am @

For about six years, I’ve been mystified by the work of Jon Friedman. He writes a media column for CBS, a financial news site bought by Dow Jones a couple of years ago. Oftentimes, Friedman’s work seems to consist of glowing profiles of this or that media exec. Other times, Friedman seems to do nothing except parrot whatever it is that’s just been said. As the Columbia Journalism Review‘s website noted recently in an article titled “The Man Who Knew Too Little and Wrote Too Much,” “Friedman occupies the odd cultural space of both upholding conventional wisdom while struggling mightily to understand it himself….As with so much else, Friedman doesn’t necessarily get anything wrong, but by time he wraps things up it’s clear he hasn’t gotten anything accomplished, either.”

Which isn’t to say Friedman isn’t occasionally impressive: Every now and then, he comes up with something that’s both banal and boneheaded. Take today’s column, titled “How Time magazine can stand apart: For starters it can change its publication date.” (Now there’s a thrilling headline.) Friedman proposes Time close mid-week, enabling it to hit newsstands on Thursdays. As Friedman asks, “Does it really make a lot of sense for the final two/sevenths of a newsmagazine’s cycle to encompass Saturday and Sunday, when little of consequence happens?”

Now, various execs at Time Inc. have advocated moving Time‘s publication to mid-week for a while; hell, I know that and I haven’t done regular media reporting since 2003. Friedman, in the midst of “propos[ing]…something truly revolutionary” apparently hasn’t done the reporting to uncover what I’ve picked up in idle chatter. (The reasons for such a move wouldn’t be the two that Friedman suggests–to improve morale and encompass more of the weekly news cycle–but because there’s a good case to be made that these days, people are more likely to have time to read a newsweekly on the weekend.) What’s more, Time, like Newsweek, closes on Saturday, not Sunday; the only way it can get news that breaks on Sunday into the magazine is to rip up an issue that’s already at the printers. (Friedman uses the capture of Saddam Hussein, which occured on a Sunday, as the rare example of news which broke on the weekend. It took me about 90 seconds to find a Times article about Saddam’s capture that contains the following sentence: “The breaking news was of such magnitude that both Time and Newsweek decided to redo issues that were already being printed.”)

That’s not the only groundbreaking suggestion Friedman has; he also recommends that Time put up exclusive web content. “The American media are missing a good bet to attract greater numbers of readers” by “provid[ing] exclusive content geared only to online readers,” he says. What an awesome idea! You mean like having Joe Klein write web-only columns? Or hiring Ana Marie Cox to do the same thing? Or maybe putting Andrew Sullivan’s blog online?

Oh, wait: already does all of that. To be fair, all of those columns are buried on the upper right-hand side of the magazine’s homepage.

Post Categories: CBS & Jon Friedman & Media reporting & Time Magazine