Tuesday Was Newsweek Day by
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I first subscribed to Newsweek as an undergrad at Brandeis. It arrived in my mailbox on Tuesdays. Though I often took literature courses with heavy reading loads, I looked forward to Tuesday afternoons. Those I devoted to reading Newsweek. I’d come back to my dorm room after lunch, get comfy on my bed and settle in to learn of the world beyond the confines of campus in Waltham, MA. I didn’t stir until I’d finished the entire magazine.

Even after I married and went to work, I still tried to read Newsweek on Tuesday evenings. I enjoyed the columnists, featured just inside the cover. George Will, though I rarely agreed with his point of view, was, and  remains a marvelous and provocative writer. (I hope everyone has seen his current, shattering Washington Post op-ed on Trump.) John Meacham, who ran Newsweek for years, is a fantastic and interesting historian, now writing long-form books and frequently shows up on various talk-shows.

Fareed Zachariah, with his own program on CNN, I first encountered years ago in Newsweek. We belong to the same club on Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve seen him working out a few times. I even geeked out at him once. He is a small, slight man, smaller than one might think from his appearance on TV. I told him I thought he was the smartest man on TV and asked why he joined this club, as it is some distance from his home. He said his wife and son liked it; he couldn’t get to the Vineyard very often. I’ve left him in peace when I’ve seen him subsequently. One is supposed to respect celebrities on the Vineyard; give them their space. That is the “Vineyard way”. but seeing him reminds me of the glory years of Newsweek.

As with all forms of print, it struggled, eventually folded, came back in some stream-lined edition, but I think only Time survived as a weekly print news magazine without interruption.

We used to subscribed to SO many magazines: The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Boston Magazine, Runner’s World, Road and Track, Yachting, Architectural Digest, Interior Design, Entertainment Weekly, Forbes, Fortune, Car and Driver, Popular Science, Autoweek, Car and Driver, Unique Homes, Playboy, Golf Digest, Majesty, PC Week, Vineyard Magazine. You can tell a lot about our interests by that list and there are some stories embedded within. Most subscriptions have fallen by the wayside, or Dan subscribes to something that gives him access to a broad range on his iPad. Between writing for Retrospect and increasing eye difficulties, I find little time for reading, which makes me sad, but it is the truth. I read various interesting articles on-line (which is probably worse for my dry, failing eyesight).

Shortly after graduating from Brandeis, before returning to Chicago to work for her father, Christie Hefner, my friend since the age of 12, moved to Boston for a year. Though I worked full-time and she was a free-lance writer, we saw a lot each other. We had dinner together at least twice a week (yes, I even cooked in those days; she is a fabulous cook and hostess).

It was my first year of marriage and I looked around for a good Chanukkah present for my new husband. She suggested a subscription to Playboy. I liked that idea. She got me the card to send in, very early, to make it a gift. Right on time, in early December, an unmarked hand-written card arrived for Dan. He opened it. It had the famous rabbit’s head logo on the front and inside was a nice note, informing him of his gift subscription, signed in handwritten ink from “Betsy”, but not MY handwriting. To be fair, I had sent away for it so long ago, I had forgotten and couldn’t figure out who this other “Betsy” was, sending my husband a gift subscription to Playboy. It took me some time to figure out that the note was from ME! We both enjoyed the magazine for years (the excellent articles and the photos).

In fact, I learned in the early ’90s, that a cousin (from a part of my mother’s family with whom my grandparents had feuded…no one remembers why, only that I grew up not knowing them), was now the publisher, being the first ever to bear that title after Hef. I heard wonderful things about him from Christie, so, on a whim, while visiting NYC in 1992, I called his secretary and left a message that I’d like to meet him (he’d heard about me from Christie too). We met for drinks at the Waldorf, had a FANTASTIC time and became great friends. He is two months younger than I am. He suggested I contact a cousin here in the Boston area (who grew up a few blocks from me, is a year older, went to the same high school, but we were not allowed to be friends). I did and we are now also great friends; a real win-win. I do not believe in family feuds!

Besides the magazines from our various alma maters, we still get the above ‘zines. Entertainment Weekly is no longer a weekly, but now publishes only monthly. It used to have interesting articles, good movie and TV reviews and be good to read at the beach. Now, because of the format, it is barely useful. The others are quick reads. It seems few people read anything not digital these days.

Bell Canada in Montreal was a client of mine in the early 1980s. I first found Majesty magazine in the Montreal airport as I waited for a flight back to Boston. I have followed the British monarchy my entire life. I have the Life magazine from Elizabeth II’s coronation. I was 6 months old at the time, so I must assume I inherited this fascination from my mother.

 

I read my first biography of the current queen, “Elizabeth Enters” in second grade during Library period at my elementary school. The Tudor dynasty is my favorite, and though there are a lot of movies and TV shows, of varying degrees of quality, made about that period, I have not found popular magazines devoted to that subject. This magazine (unlike Royalty, which covers ALL monarchies, holding little interest for me), used to run series on the history of the monarchs, as well as current goings-ons. It is relentlessly up-beat. Not a word about “MegExit”, the retreat of Harry and Meghan from their royal positions. I have subscribed for about 36 years and seen a decline in the quality of the magazine, just as the family itself has become less interesting, but yet, I continue to get it, though I hardly look at it these days.  No doubt, Kate is the rising star and has had several covers over the past 12 months. The royal family needs an infusion of good news and charisma. They continue to carry on their charity work and ceremonial duties. We will see what the future holds for them and this magazine.

All forms of print media are struggling as digital is increasingly the place where, for better or worse, everyone turns to get their information, vetted or not. It becomes increasingly important that, even on-line, we look at the source of the information to sort out what and whom to trust in this era of information overload, deep fakes and spoofs. I still like the form factor of print. But then, I’m OLD!

 

 

 

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.


Tags: Newsweek, Majesty, Entertainment Weekly
Characterizations: funny, well written

Comments

  1. John Shutkin says:

    What a great compendium of the magazines of our time, Betsy. And I am not surprised that you devoured so many in their times. I, too, was a huge devotee of Newsweek — Time and Luce were considered too conservative — and now read “The Week” as the closest descendent of it these days, And, having learned from your stories of your close friendship with Christie Hefner, I was not surprised that there would be a couple of fun Playboy stories, too. (I only read it for the interviews, of course.)

    Your last paragraph rings so true. Many of us oldsters lament the demise of print media, And, whatever the form of media we ingest these days, it is important that we carefully determine what to trust and not to trust. Here’s a pro tip: If Trump calls something “fake news,” it is probably pretty reliable. And vice versa.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      These days, when so much of what we all see is either linked to Facebook or Twitter, it is terribly important to check the reference. My husband pointed that out to me 4 years ago and, boy, was he accurate! (I think it was some story about the Pope endorsing one of the candidates…Dan said, “What is the source?” I ALWAYS check to make sure it is a credible news organization now (no, Breitbart doesn’t count).

  2. Wonderful article, Betsy…or I should say, another wonderful article! I, too, had a subscription to Newsweek for years and devoured it every week. And of course I always love hearing your stories about our mutual friend, Christie. And I still appreciate the times you sent me Majesty, for I know it was an expensive gift, in more ways than one! So thanks for another interesting article, so well-written.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Steve, as I mentioned, I am not up-to-date on reading my “Majesty”…in fact, I’m more than THREE years behind. So it isn’t that I stopped sending them to you. I have a pile in my study of unread magazines! Since they aren’t particularly timely, I figure, I can always catch up and THEN will send them to you. Probably should have mentioned that a long time ago (if you still want them after all this time).

  3. Marian says:

    We read Newsweek at home as well and it was interesting and enlightening. I love the conclusion to this story, Betsy, because I like the form factor of print, something my younger friends, relatives, and colleagues find mystifying. I read Science magazine for professional reasons and insist on getting the print version. There is some serendipity in flipping through pages and coming upon an article that gives unexpected information and pleasant reading.

  4. Suzy says:

    A wonderful and very thorough journey through magazinedom! I’m impressed that you spent Tuesday afternoons in college reading Newsweek from cover to cover! I got all my news in college from the Harvard Crimson, and if it wasn’t in there, I didn’t know about it. Quite an amazing number and variety of magazines that you used to subscribe to. I don’t blame you for cutting down, nobody could read that many even without any eyesight problems! And my favorite anecdote is about the gift subscription to Playboy from a mysterious Betsy who didn’t have your handwriting! Very cute! Thanks for another great story!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, Suzy. I was rather amused and embarrassed when I finally realized that strange handwriting was supposed to be MINE!

      Speaking of old magazines, I’m doing a huge clean-up project before going away for the summer, tossing loads of old ones (some dating back two years!), but looking through each before tossing. I just came across Entertainment Weekly’s review for “Never Have I Ever” (which you know I watched, and thoroughly enjoyed). The EW reviewer also gave it a very nice review (A-), praising the solid writing, wonderful acting, and inventive use of John McEnroe, while keeping the focus squarely on the lead character. Kudos to Ben!

  5. Well, I’ll just come out and say it, Betsy — I am amazed at and impressed by the breadth and volume of magazines you have consumed throughout your life. And it’s not as if you’ve spent ALL your time reading…clearly the magazines represent just some of the interests you spent the rest of your time actually doing in one form or another. Not to mention home and family! You obviously have twice as many hours in the day as I do, that’s the only way I can explain it. Otherwise I’d feel like a slouch.

    Fun story about Fareed Zachariah — I would have geeked out as well. And love the Playboy story, and the cover!

    Thanks for another great read, Betsy!

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Betsy, I so agree with you. I loved reading magazine articles in print. Still do when I can find them. Online, I find my attention wanders. If something is really interesting, I often print it out (double sided or on the back of something else because I know it is wrong to waste paper). I also loved Newsweek and read it cover to cover. Getting the Playboy subscription for your husband is pretty funny. Also, I agree about family feuds. As far as I’m concerned, the buck stopped with my generation. Was that ever a prompt for Retrospect?

  7. Betsy, Why am I not surprised at your recall of all the magazines you’ve read and when!
    What resonated with me was your memory of reading Newsweek in your college dorm. I have vivid memories of taking The Saturday Review out of my grad dorm mailbox and savoring it over Saturday lunch!

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