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From the December 1988 MediaWatch

Does Magazine Deliver News or Reporters' Views?

Tell a friend about this site

Page One

Opinion Time at TIME.

Pundits have offered many interpretations for why Michael Dukakis lost. Take this explanation from liberal historian Garry Wills: "Bush won by default, and by fouls. His mandate is to ignore the threats to our economy, sustain the Reagan heritage of let's pretend, and serve as figurehead for what America has become, a frightened empire hiding its problems from itself."

Such anti-Reagan, anti-Bush rhetoric appeared in a liberal opinion journal, right? Perhaps Mother Jones or The Nation. No, it ran in the November 21 Time. Surely it must have been an opinion piece, a Time "essay?" Again, no. It was the conclusion of a seven page "Nation" section election analysis.

How did such blatant opinion get into a news magazine? MediaWatch asked Time publicist Brian Brown, who admitted: "We hired him on a contract basis. So obviously we wanted his opinion." Why weren't readers alerted to this? He insisted: "Time was very up front when we launched our new format two months ago, saying we were indeed going to be more provocative, and in being provocative become opinionated." But when Time changed its design on October 17, Managaing Editor Henry Muller assured readers: "Time is above all a newsmagazine."

But another article in the same issue shows it really has become a forum its reporters opinions. An article by Associate Editor Jill Smolowe reviewed the foreign policy challenges in Central America. She wrote that Reagan "can claim credit for laying the groundwork for democracy in El Salvador" and "the Sandinistas' most salient achievements have been to consolidate their power, build a formidable military machine and suppress dissent."

But in her conclusion, she rejected Reagan policies, offering these options for the Bush Administration: "[admit] the Contras are never going to topple the Sandinistas," "[admit] the Sandinistas are not going to do anything, including setting up a system of free elections, that might cost them their power," so "Washington should acknowledge the legitimacy of the Managua regime and resume direct negotiations," and "offer to lift its economic embargo," all in exchange for some assurances by the Sandinistas.






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