Who killed Time Inc.? Bad journalism.

The legacy of Great Men are forever... time-inc

Until it isn't.

Meredith Corporation-1 Logo

Both Vanity Fair and CJR have articles on Meredith Corp's devouring of Time Inc.


The last hurrah of their old web page is archived here.

I had once mused on a journalism forum many years ago that Time Inc. was publishing unimportant news, and was losing audiences who could get trivial things like that for free online. I had expected either silence or getting trolled.

I got many personal emails form people who were former or current employees. To my astonishment, every one agreed with the assessment. It didn't matter what journalists wanted to pursue, their superiors thought stories about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were going to save the day.

That was a decade ago, and now there is one less media company, as two have become one.

Yet in Vanity Fair, they give a hint why journalism is in a mess:

Insiders I spoke with said people are trying to remain optimistic about what the future holds. After years of downsizing, declining revenues, a flagging stock price, leadership churn and, not least of all, the many challenges associated with a digitally focused turnaround that had yet to come to fruition, there’s a sense that forging ahead as an independent public company wasn’t exactly a rock-solid option, that the grass in Des Moines may indeed be greener. 

No strategy or realistic expectations. Just sunny spinning rot. The inability to get a pulse on reality is a common theme in the mindset of journalists.

But the Vanity Fair piece isn't the truly problematic one.

As usual, CJR's interpretation of reality is one for the books.

First, the article goes on about the "great" writers who came from the publication.

Just stop it.

Stop the name-dropping.

First, if you took those names and quizzed average people -- even highly educated people -- most people who would say, "who?"

Then comes the perpetual surprise:

The end of Time Inc. is also unsettling because the forces that doomed it seem stronger than ever. “We lived through a seismic change in the business of media, and what happened at Time to one degree or another has happened to every other journalistic enterprise both native and traditional,” says Josh Quittner, who was editor of Business 2.0, a “New Economy” magazine that Time Warner bought in 2001 and closed in 2007. “No one has figured it out because there’s nothing to figure out. It’s like the horse trying to figure out the automobile.”

You mean, Time wasn't special or superior?

You mean an entire profession imploded?

No one has figured it out?

No, that is not accurate. Not at all.

No one in the profession was willing to listen to people who figured it out, and were more than willing to outline it.

People like me have been vocal and public for decades.

Twenty years for me, for instance. I had once pitched an article to CJR about why audiences weren't connecting, and what could be done...I got a snitty rejection that basically stated, in essence, that it was probably true, but things would get better; so we'll pass on your article.

And then comes the next section:


Again, here we go with the Great Man visionary hypothesis. Looking back in time of the glory days, not focussing on what went wrong...after all, those in the industry state that "there is nothing to figure out."

So there.

It rambles on and on, with nothing remotely insightful.

Bad journalism killed Time.

It killed it because they were doing the same thing over and over again, never paying attention to their own environment, because they were too busy trying to shove their own narratives down other people's throats...and then eventually, it died by hubris.

It never learned to examine facts. It was always about selling a narrative, not even telling  a story.

If journalists were primed to be fact-gatherers, they could see what was going down in their own newsrooms.

If editors or owners respected facts, they would have conducted their affairs very differently.

It is not hard to figure it out.

But good luck giving that scoop to anyone in the profession.