I grew up reading Newsweek, because Mom and Dad subscribed to it. Over the last year or so, I've been reading Time, because the kind folks at Time Inc. zip me over an issue every Monday. So basically, my choice of newsweekly has heretofore been determined by access to freebie copies.

I guess that's my roundabout way of saying that I've always found the two titles roughly interchangeable. This is not intended as a slap at either one; I've just never gotten the impression that I'd be setting myself adrift in the estuary of ignorance if I only checked out one of the two. In my ever-humble opinion, Time has always been sharper on the hard-news front, while Newsweek tends to suss out lifestyle trends in a more timely and relevant manner. To each his own.

Looking at the March 27 Time, the question isn't whether the magazine remains a consistently smart, durable read--of course it does. The question is whether, in today's topsy-turvy world of information super-duper-shmuper-saturation, any weekly publication can keep up with the pace of the Internet.

Clearly Time excels in surrounding the week's most pressing issues, often providing a days-after, contrarian take rarely found outside the blog world. The March 27 issue's "Was Iraq Worth It?" compilation gives academics, historians, and editors of Egyptian and Lebanese newspapers a chance to assess the war. The commentators--few of whom we regularly hear from, with the exception of William F. Buckley Jr.--both inform and provoke.

Time also earns its mettle with newsy one-pagers on stories you likely missed while fretting over the minutiae of Star Jones' botched boob job. The mag's dispatches add the insight and bigger-picture perspective absent from earlier reports on this month's massive Alaska oil spill and newly discovered loopholes in cell-phone privacy. Best is the "Letter From Paris" news/analysis mashup, which details France's recent student strike and the subsequent rioting. Let them eat cake, indeed.

As always, the up-front "Notebook" ably juxtaposes pithy quotes and statistics with hard news (in this issue's case, an item questioning whether a previously censured Guantanamo Bay general got a bum rap). You gotta love the mag's list of items seized by the government from celebrities and then sold--if Peabo Bryson's two Grammy Awards fetched $25,000, what do you suppose Peaches & Herb could get for their toenail clippings?

The March 27 issue falls curiously short on the feature front, however, especially in its cover story on the multitasking teens it dubs "Generation M" (ooh, sounds like somebody's trying to coin a catchphrase! Alert the semanticists!). Never mind that this same story has been written multiple times by technology, lifestyle and even entertainment publications. If one were to create a ready checklist for it, it would include an anecdotal lead (yup), a list of dos/don'ts (natch), photos of teens on the phone and/or in front of the computer (but of course), and a grumpy old man bemoaning those kids today, with the long hair and the fancy cell phones and the loud music (naturellement).

To put it mildly, clichés abound. The story's only saving grace? A neato diagram that explains how the brain processes multiple streams of information at once, a handy skill in those instances when a Rangers game coincides with The Shield.

A few other decisions don't sit right with me. The cover poses two we're-gonna-make-you-think-if-it's-the-last-thing-we-do questions ("Are Kids Too Wired For Their Own Good?" and "Was Iraq Worth It?"), but omits mention of the issue's best piece of investigative journalism (a report on whether the killing of 15 Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines was self-defense or a deliberate act of revenge).

While I recognize the need to balance the hard news with lighter fare, the "Your Time" items on sleeping pills and family travel descend into Reader's Digest pap. Plus the mag pushes way too hard in its Bette Midler Q&A--man, she must've been steamed when they asked her if she was planning to tour again.

Anyway, to answer the question I posed in this treatise's third paragraph--the one strategically located right above paragraph four --yeah, a weekly Time (or Newsweek) booster shot should still be an important part of your weekly information diet. Hell, I could make an argument that the newsweeklies may be more useful now than they've ever been before: The two major cable news networks favor personality over substance, the Times seems perpetually in a state of catch-up, and local news broadcasts work only as a source of unintentional humor ("three local schools caught serving poison chocolate milk--we'll tell you which ones... later in the hour!"). Now as before, Time is an eminently worthy companion for your leisure hours.

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