Of course, it's hell for purists like me, who want their news straight, hold the condiments. I tried radio, but I can't work and listen at the same time. It's fine if you drive, but I rarely do. And my teenage nephews won't drive with me, claiming that a mastery of the New York subway and a love of Broadway musicals is no substitute for experience. I tried cable, but the shouting and the smugness were too much. So I turned old-school; I turned to The Week.
At 42 pages, this general-interest magazine, which summarizes "the best of the U.S. and international media," is an eye-opener. It offers well-edited, bite-sized summations of both Left and Right, often juxtaposed against each other. The spin, the contradictions, the crazy -- on both sides -- remain intact. The technique not only showcases slant and faulty reasoning but allows one to see the distinctions in editorial coverage. It helps weed out rant from real reporting. Best of all, you stay informed and can impress your friends! From torture memos to budget shortfalls, scientific breakthroughs to an arts roundup, The Week supplies a quick-hit of global events in easy, digestible stories.
Bottom line: The Week delivers a solid liberal-arts education in 40 minutes.
For Americans who don't have the opportunity to read the foreign press, it's revealing. When the Der Standard laments the acceptance of fascism in Austria, take note. The growing gap between rich and poor in Germany? We've seen this movie -- and it doesn't have a happy ending. The sections "Best Columns: Europe" and "Best Columns: International" showcase the wider world for curious minds. First, what is happening abroad is important; second, it illustrates how other nations see us.
Bush and Cheney were hopeless at sustaining our popularity or sanity quotient. That doesn't mean that everyone overseas is enamored of Obama -- even if they admire his intellect and historic momentum. To understand the nuances of foreign policy, to appreciate that the new president is respected, but not given carte blanche, is truly fair and balanced.
Speaking of Darth Vader, Cheney's campaign to defend waterboarding is often debated on the merits of effectiveness. Forget the usual suspects and their predictable bias, The Week's "Talking Points" entry digests six different columnists on why the man in the bunker is suddenly more visible than Hannah Montana. The most sobering comment is by Tom Kean, the Republican co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, who says the White House could have avoided the terrorist attack if it hadn't ignored repeated warnings.
So focused is The Week on critical news, it dispenses with a table of contents. The four main headings are: News, Arts, Leisure, Business. Under those umbrella terms, it covers a slew of interesting material. In the May 29 issue, I learned that Rachel Alexandra became the first filly since 1924 to win the Preakness; more Americans are going to school in Canada due to cost; and the fighting between Pakistani forces and insurgents has created 1 million refugees.
Happily, it's not all serious stuff. The magazine also notes weird, wacky reports in the "Only in America" blurb. This week, Florida prison officials apologized for using 50,000-volt stun guns on 43 children on Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day. Did I mention the guards had the parents' permission? The 2000 recount, never mind Carl Hiaasen's books, should have been ample warning: Florida is crazy. Don't leave the South Beach perimeter.
But do pick up a copy of The Weekand enjoy what was once a staple of American journalism: the general-interest magazine. It even includes helpful Internet sites, a crossword puzzle and a weekly contest. To grab a memorable line from Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm": "Who could ask for anything more?"
Published by: The Week Publications, Inc.
Web site: www.theweek.com/home