“Christopher, we want you back.”—Time Magazine
“Renew it or lose it.”—The Economist
With that, you have my dilemma. To understand why it’s such a dilemma, I have to make a confession.
First let me state the obvious. I’m a human being and human beings are obsessed with self-image. The more someone might claim to be against the grain or image neutral, the more I’m inclined to think that there’s a narcissistic beast lurking inside.
From 2009-2010, I was a satisfied subscriber of Time Magazine. It was a Christmas gift from my sister and it was the first time I’d
ever held a subscription. This coincided with my move to New York which eventually led me to the halls of the United Nations. There, I became painfully and acutely aware of my Americanitis, which is to say that I knew nothing beyond the borders of our shores.
Time Magazine was my portal; it popped my cherry to the rest of the world.
Soon though, the tides of self-doubt started creeping in again. While Time was playfully churning out cover images of Mark Zuckerberg and Tea Party darlings, I’d occasionally glance up at the fellow in the sharp Hugo Boss suit, reading a Wall Street Journal. Or the business exec-type who was fully engrossed in The International Herald Tribune. I looked down disappointingly at my Time Magazine, feeling more like a US Weekly citizen rather than the liberally charged New York Times intellectual I knew I was trying to be.
Then I internalized the dismissive comments from my friends and colleagues. “Ben Bernanke…Person of the Year? I expect nothing less from a bubble-gum publication like Time.”
Bubble-gum publication? I was confused, but I nodded in areement with my peers. What a discredited magazine, I’d shout. All the while, my dirty little secret was folded neatly in my messenger bag. My June issue of Time might well have been the June issue of Hustler.
Now it’s important to note that I still very much enjoyed Time. I learned a lot and became quite fond of writing personalities like Joe Klein, Zachary Karabell, and Nancy Gibbs. And when Fareed Zakaria joined on, boy was it was magic! I liked that I could put a face to the article and align my political worldview against theirs. Contrary to snubby liberal opinion, I found their articles to be insightful and thought provoking.
But here’s where that self-image thing comes in. People will happily subject themselves to self-inflicted wounds in the name of their image. What was wrong with Time? Nothing. I was happy. And yet, I let my subscription expire to move up to the so-called big leagues.
Nip. Tuck. The Economist.
I remember getting my first issue in the mail. I was nervous, almost like walking into my first graduate school class. I didn’t think I’d measure up.
But I quickly put that aside and took it for a test run on the subway. I’d read the articles only to glance up occasionally to scan for my old Time buddies I had left behind. “That’s right,” I used to think. “Feel free to be intellectually intimidated.”
I even ran into my former Wall Street Journal overlord, and I could swear that I got an approving “welcome to the big boys club” type of nod.
Yes, sir. I was a regular Sarah Palin, readin’ them publications.
But these articles were boring. They were hard and required my full concentration. They weren’t written by guys like Joel Stein, but by pen names like Lexington, Banyan, and Charlemagne. In place of personalities, I got trade analyses of Ghanian cocoa production.
What’s worse is that I got through maybe 1/3 of the magazine before the next one came barreling into my mailbox. It’s as if The Economist’s central aim is to prove that they are smarter than you. Not only do they publish reports the reader can barely understand, they publish them faster than he can read them. That sort of thing.
So it’s apropos, this “Renew it or lose it.” swagger. They’re British, they’re snarky, and they’re better than you.
In my other hand is my first-love, calling to me longingly, “Christopher, we want you back.”
Sigh. I want you back too Fareed. Nancy. Joe. I miss you and I want you back.
But you have to undertand. (whisper: The Economist scares me and I’m afraid he’ll kill me if I turn him down. Shhhh! Don’t tell Charlemagne, ok?)
Here, Economist…here’s my $137.19 at the discounted price per issue promotional rate.
I’m at your mercy.