Time and The New Yorker: Luce and Ross

The Economist with all its wit and influence today can't match the verve and reach Time had in its glory days. Now there was a magazine with a world audience and writing that really sparkled. It could make the news read like a story and describe a person as vividly as a picture.

Sadly shrunken now, it boasts a storied past, recalled in loving detail by its old rival, The New Yorker. It's hard to see two such different magazines as rivals. But that's what they were, recalls Jill Lepore in her highly entertaining Untimely: What was at stake in the spat between Henry Luce and Harold Ross?

Ross, a miner's son who never finished high school, launched The New Yorker in 1925 as the magazine "not edited for the old lady in Dubuque".

Luce, a missionary's China-born son who went to Yale, started Time with his friend, Briton Hadden, in 1923 as a a magazine meant to "appeal to every man and woman in America".

Luce and Ross hated each other's guts.

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Time, Newsweek and Economist earnings

Newsweek wants to stop chasing the news and lose circulation, according to the New York Times. It wants to deliver more opinion pieces to a smaller readership. In other words, Newsweek wants to be more like the Economist, the healthiest of the three international newsweeklies.

The Economist has the fewest subscribers and possibly the lowest advertising rates. A one-time run-of the-book full-page colour ad costs $39, 950 in its Asia Pacific edition. A similar ad costs $57,585 in Newsweek’s Asian edition and  $77,200 in Time’s Asian edition. (All prices quoted from the companies’ rate cards.) 

The Economist sells nearly 134,000 copies a week in Asia Pacific and close to 1.4 million throughout the world. Newsweek sells just over three million copies including 200,000 in Asia and 2.6 million in the US. It plans to reduce circulation to 1.5 million by January next year. Time sells over four million copies including 3.25 million in the US and nearly 280,000 in  Asia. But only the Economist Group is making a profit. Here are the latest financial reports by the owners of Newsweek, Time and the Economist.

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New Singapore rules for Time, Newsweek, International Herald Tribune

I don’t know how I missed the news in the local papers, but on Google News today I learnt that Time, Newsweek, the International Herald Tribune and the Financial Times will have to follow new rules to operate in Singapore.

They will have to appoint a legal representative in Singapore "to accept service of any notice or legal process on behalf of the publisher" and submit a security deposit of 200,000 Singapore dollars (about $127,000), says the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA). I visited the government website to verify the reports in the Guardian and Reporters Without Borders which were picked up by Google News.

The ball starts rolling with the Far Eastern Economic Review which has been given time until September 11 to follow the new rules. And it has to follow them "before it can be allowed to circulate in Singapore", says the ministry.

I don’t read the Review but, according to  Reporters Without Borders, it published an interview with Singapore opposition politician Chee Soon Juan, calling him a "martyr" because of various lawsuits against him.

The ministry, however, says as a foreign publication it has to follow the same rules as other "offshore newspapers".  Offshore newspapers need a permit to circulate in Singapore. The Review’s circulation will remain capped at 10,000 copies, says the ministry.

The same rules will apply to Time, Newsweek, the International Herald Tribune and the Financial Times when their current permits expire. They have so far been exempted from these rules laid down by the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act. But "there have been changes in the media scene . In view of these developments, MICA has reviewed the exempt status of offshore newspapers circulating in Singapore," says the ministry.

It adds that "it is a privilege, not a right, for foreign newspapers to circulate in Singapore" and they "should not interfere in the domestic politics of Singapore".

I wonder if this means Time, Newsweek, the International Herald Tribune and the Financial Times will also have their circulation capped like the Far Eastern Economic Review. That’s not mentioned in the ministry press release online.

The great thing about Singapore is it’s so cosmopolitan, so well-connected to the world. Internet broadband connections are widely available and even news kiosks at some of the bus interchanges sell Time, Newsweek and The Economist. And if one visits one of the bigger bookshops like Borders or Kinokuniya, one can get anything from Wired magazine to New Yorker and Vanity Fair. It will be sad if one can’t get them as and when one wants. The local media is fine, but it’s only natural to be curious about what others are saying.

The man who’s reading Don Quixote

Lky_time We seldom get such an intimate portrait of Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore. So I could not resist copying wholesale these introductory paragraphs of this week’s Time Asia cover story headlined The Man Who Saw It All. This is writing, blending background, analysis and observation beautifully:

"In years past, Lee Kuan Yew’s office was famous among visitors for its arctic air conditioning and Spartan furnishing. A few Chinese scrolls apart, there was little decoration and sometimes barely a sheet of paper to be seen. Singapore’s founding father first moved into the office on the second floor of the former British governor-general’s residence in 1971, having already served six years as Prime Minister. He retired in 1990 to become Senior Minister and later Minister Mentor, but still works out of the same rooms.

"The L-shaped office may have changed little over the years, but at a recent meeting there were small but telling signs that the formidable 82-year-old leader has mellowed—a little. For one thing, the temperature has crept up noticeably. And while most surfaces are still bare, the table behind Lee’s computer is covered with untidy piles of books. Lee says that his current favorite isn’t one of the stacked tomes on terrorism or economics but the sprawling 17th-century Spanish novel Don Quixote. "A new translation," he enthuses. "Very good." It’s something of a shock that the man best known for his cold-eyed pragmatism is reveling in a book whose hero spent his time tilting at windmills and gave his name to an English adjective meaning impractical and idealistic.

"Still, despite his more relaxed demeanor, when Time spoke to him for nearly five hours over two days this fall, it was clear that neither age nor heart surgery 10 years ago have changed Lee’s basic personality: sharp intelligence allied with an unsentimental, almost clinical rationality and supreme confidence in his own judgment."