You heard me. TIME magazine. It is still in business and they still print something like three million paper copies of it every month. Among people in my age cohort it’s usually considered the print journalism equivalent of sixty minutes: conservative-leaning, lots of pharmaceutical ads, and stories designed to make old farts feel better about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Abandon this point of view. The reality is that TIME is much more like The Economist, but a lot less pretentious.
Here are a few reasons why you should read TIME, in the form of a list of things I liked in the last couple of issues:
1. Lev Grossman. He is actually the reason I read TIME at all. He’s the author of the hippest literary fantasy novel of the 21st Century, The Magicians. The book changed my life and also the rules of what it’s possible for literary novelists to get away with these days. Grossman is one of TIME’s book critics and also their chief technology writer. He had a great piece about Tim Cook in the Person of the Year issue. He’s also written for TIME about the technological singularity, Harry Potter fan fiction, and the totally uncool and politically incorrect but also brilliant Sci-Fi novelist Larry Niven. Anybody with guts to write about geeky stuff like Larry Niven in front of millions of Americans wins as far as I’m concerned.
2. A photograph of Barack Obama pretending to be caught in the web of a little kid dressed as Spiderman just a few pages away from a gorgeous photo of a galaxy 45 million light years from earth, with a super massive black hole at its center surrounded by the glowing ring of a stellar nursery. TIME’s photos are as random as anything you’d find surfing the Web, except they are consistently gorgeous and well curated.
3. A short, insightful article about the French president’s attempt to tax the 1% of France. Sure I could find this in The Economist, but TIME writes it in a way that doesn’t put me to sleep.
4. Suketu Mehta, author of the Dickensian portrait of Mumbai called Maximum City that captivated me a few years ago, writing an incisive essay about feminism in India.
5. A piece about the tax code by Rana Faroohar which revealed how the US can have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world (35%, who knew?) but still lose billions through loopholes. And then a video (I read the tablet edition) where she interviews Joseph Stiglitz about how wealth inequality impacts society.
6. An incredible piece about Malala Yousafzai, the little girl from Pakistan who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban as punishment for attending school, and who has now become an icon for women’s rights around the world.
7. A story about foreign policy which mentions that Obama’s CIA/state department is helping disable Iran’s nuclear program by using full-on cyber warfare. And another story about the history of foreign policy when mentions that not one US soldier died in combat during the Eisenhower administration. This stuff is just fascinating, people.
You get the idea. This is not a light-weight conservative rag, but a great review of what’s going on in the world, or at least what middle class America wants to know and thinks is important or amusing. As a middle class American myself, I often find those two categories overlapping.
TIME is not my only source of information by any means, but it’s the best way for me to tap into what’s “being bruited about” as Michael Crichton once said of his use of mainstream media. I am a gay New Yorker who doesn’t own a television. Tapping into what the rest of the country is thinking about is not a bad idea. And I learn a lot in the process. Compared to my previous source of mainstream news, the noisy and unreliable open Internet, reading the tablet edition of TIME is a calm, pleasant, well-written experience.
Or maybe I’m just getting old, cranky, and set in my ways.