A requiem for Newsweek: A Habesha tribute

Originally posted on Oct.28, 2012

Once again we are saying goodbye to yesterday. This time yesterday comes in the form of Newsweek, the international weekly magazine. They are celebrating their 80th birthday in style, by bidding farewell to the print publication. The octogenarian will see its last day in print on December 31.The online version henceforth will be called Newsweek Global.

newsweek-final-issueAt its apex the weekly was printing over four million copies worldwide. At the end of it all, that number shrunk to a little more than a million and half, still not a bad feat in these trying times for the print world. Among the reasons for going all online, the magazine editor Tina Brown says: “An electronic Newsweek could be delivered swiftly and economically to millions.” The discontinuation of this publication is yet another indicator that the days of the print media are numbered.

I’m online, therefore I am

Never been a fan of the magazine. I can barely tell the difference between Newsweek and Time. Always have hard time tracking where I read an article whether on Newsweek or Time. That brings me to a story published on Newsweek in 2004. (Not that I am sharp at remembering dates, I googled the title. It was traced to July 2004). I was attracted to the story not because I understood the far reaching implications of the news; neither did I hear about the inventor of that particular device which happened to be Steve Jobs of Apple. The title iPod, therefore i Am was tricky, reminiscent of a French philosopher’s credo I think, therefore I am. In a time where the compact cassette had not even completely ceded to CDs around town, that story was hard to comprehend and even seemed an imagination taken too far. What is even more surprising is the iPod was invented couple of years earlier but we never heard about it. I was fortunate enough to have a look at the music player a year later when a Danish photographer on a mission to Addis brought it with her. That is the only story I can for sure attribute to Newsweek.

To have and to hold

For reasons not known precisely, for long time there hasn’t been a place to buy current issues of the twin magazines in Addis. While not confirmed, I hear stories that those magazines were banned in Ethiopia during the Derg administration. However, some government owned hotels used to import the magazines for their expatriate patrons. Otherwise one has to turn to the Mierab Hotel in Merkato; around the National Theatre down Churchill Road; or to the vicinity of Cinema Ethiopia to get older copies of all kinds of international news magazines. Employees of most government and ruling party affiliated media; the staff at Ethiopian Airlines; and some NGO staff were among the lucky folks who had a chance of laying their hands on the latest copies of the magazines.

Apart from the Volkswagen van that carried ads of the popular international weeklies – who ever owned it – until recently, there were no known importers of the magazines. Lately though, stands at Hilton and other international hotels; stores like the Book World and others became spots to get a glimpse of the publications, if not to buy.

True that we have to face the reality of the changing world; but that is easier said than done. I will surely miss the flashy cover designs and the logo which is simply Newsweek written in white against a red backdrop. The trouble of recalling where I read the recent opinion piece is a nuisance I can get over with. R.I.P. Newsweek print.

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