Newsweek's anti-Obama cover story: Has the magazine lost all credibility?

The conservative historian Niall Ferguson pens an error-filled tirade against Obama, and the struggling weekly concedes that it didn't fact-check the story

If Newsweek's goal was to spark controversy with its Obama-bashing cover article, then the error-riddled piece was certainly a success.
(Image credit: Newsweek)

This week, Newsweek came under an onslaught of criticism for publishing a cover story titled: "Hit the road, Barack: Why we need a new president." (See an image at right and below.) Written by conservative historian Niall Ferguson, a Harvard professor who served as an adviser to the John McCain campaign in 2008, the story is a litany of complaints against Obama, blasting him for his poor economic stewardship, fiscal irresponsibility, broken promises, and foreign policy weakness. The problem? The article is riddled with so many errors and misrepresentations that it prompted scores of corrections and complaints from other publications. Rival magazine The Atlantic even conducted a full fact-check of the article — an embarrassment for a venerable magazine like Newsweek. Indeed, the struggling weekly all but admitted that it no longer has a fact-checking department, saying, "We, like other news organizations today, rely on our writers to submit factually accurate material." Ferguson's piece is the latest attention-grabbing cover to emerge from Newsweek under the editorship of Tina Brown (who also runs Newsweek's online partner The Daily Beast), and she was also criticized for a recent piece slamming Mitt Romney as a "wimp." Has Newsweek lost its credibility?

No. Newsweek is simply publishing a diversity of opinion: As a mainstream magazine that recently published a "pretty aggressive anti-Romney" story, Newsweek "should publish anti-Obama cover stories, too," says Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. "We should cultivate, and cater to, Republican readers as well as Democratic ones." There is "something fun and vibrant about a publication wherein the principal voices have at one another." But of course, "the attacks ought to be factual."

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