Fineman: 'Just Like the Dollar is Weak, American Media is Weak'

     The landscape of the American media is weakening because of a stronger international media, according to Newsweek’s senior Washington correspondent Howard Fineman.

     “What’s happening in the media is that it’s being globalized,” Fineman told an audience at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., on May 1. The regular contributor to MSNBC was promoting his book, “The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates That Define and Inspire Our Country.”

     “And just like the dollar is weak, American media is weak,” Fineman said. “We’re closing overseas bureaus – although Newsweek is not. Interestingly, we realized one of the few precious things we have that makes a publication like Newsweek unique is its global perspective.”

     To survive in this current climate, according to Fineman, is to expand – not downsize, as many other outlets are doing – your international presence.

    “[W]e’re one of the few institutions that tries to cover the whole world and circulate in the whole world,” Fineman said. “They would include the BBC and Reuters, and Time and Newsweek, and now the Financial Times, and The Economist. That’s about it. The Agence France-Presse, that’s about it.”

     Fineman said a heightened interest in American news, specifically the weaker U.S. dollar, has generated an international presence in the American news cycle.

     “But what’s happening is with the dollar so weak, and with interest in America so strong around the world, we are basically having our own story taken over and told by others who are not Americans,” Fineman said.

     News Corporation (NYSE:NWS.A) CEO Rupert Murdoch is the model Fineman alluded to that has been a success. Murdoch has been criticized for buying newspapers that are losing money, however according to Fineman, there is a reason for that – to expand his presence in the media.

     “[M]urdoch is part of that globalization of the media,” Fineman said. “The reason he is so strong and so powerful is he’s got British newspapers behind him, he’s got Australian newspapers behind him. He’s got Sky Television behind him; he’s got enormous global clout behind him. And now he’s established a huge beachhead in America with The Weekly Standard and The New York Post. And, he’s trying to buy Newsday, and he bought The Wall Street Journal. He’s got Fox.”

     Fineman said that the American media – himself included – have been too wrapped up in the minutia of the campaigns, where as the foreign press are asking the more general questions about what the general public cares about.

     “That’s what The New York Times is up against,” Fineman said. “That’s what all the American media is up against. And by the way, out on the campaign trail – a lot of the most pertinent questions, a lot of the most skeptical questions are not asked by the American media – which is we’re all bound up in the horse race stuff and so forth – but by the international media. You know, they’re so ignorant that they’re asking the right questions.”

    Fineman noted this as a shift in the media – from an Ameri-centric media to just the opposite.

     “It’s irritating, ‘Hey buddy – that’s my story,’” Fineman added. “Well, it’s not my story – just as the story of other countries was told to them by us. So now we’re getting the payback.”

     During his book talk, Fineman also said Fox News was the best way to determine what the Bush administration’s next move with Iran would be and that bloggers aren’t paying their dues like he and others did early in their careers.