History of Time Magazine Part 7

About the history of Time magazine, the founding and publishing in America, its strengths and weaknesses.



Oct. 22, 1965: "Everywhere today South Vietnam bristles with the U.S. presence. Bulldozers by the hundreds carve sandy shore into vast plateaus for tent cities and airstrips. Howitzers and trucks grind through the once-empty green highlands. Wave upon wave of combat-booted Americans--lean, laconic and looking for a fight--pour ashore from armadas of troopships. Day and night, screaming jets and helicopters seek out the enemy. . . . The Viet Cong's once-cocky hunters have become the cowering hunted."

Strengths: With occasional lapses, such as Vietnam, Time has understood the nature of its readers. Luce knew that although his staff was made up predominantly of eastern sophisticates, his readership was not, and he periodically insisted that a little more "corn" was needed. He did not, however, talk down to or underestimate the intelligence of his readers. Time has always offered intelligent discussions of the latest happenings in economy, business, science, religion, medicine, art, theater, cinema, books, etc., through its many and varied departments. Although the results did not always indicate it, Time has hired unusually talented writers and editors from its earliest days.

Weaknesses: Under Luce, truth was often obscured by Time's version of what truth ought to be. Ideology was more important than mere fact, so Time often printed Luce's ideology. As Gov. Earl Long of Louisiana once said, "Mister Henry Luce is like a shoe salesman, but all the other shoe-store owners stock all different sizes of shoes, but Mr. Luce, he only sells shoes that fit hisself."

Bias is not so blatant in the current Time product, and its style is not so jingoistic as it once was. It is, however, still smug and show-offy and, as the careful reader will detect, not without innuendo. Statements in Time are often oversimplified to the extent of being obvious, simplistic, or just plain platitudinous.

Unusual Facts: In a bid for greater accuracy, Time regularly circulates to its staff an "Errors Summary Report" listing every mistake in the magazine and pointing out whether it originated with the correspondent, writer, or researcher involved.

A weekly newsmagazine's two greatest difficulties are being current and being accurate. In an attempt at the former, a Time music critic was once required to write a fake review of composer Virgil Thomson's 65th birthday concert at Town Hall in New York City five days before the event. The critic did his best to muster up appropriate generalities, but was much embarrassed when the issue with the review appeared on the newsstands the day before the concert.

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