Well, it's finally happened. It seems someone serious is going to play a left-wing David to the Time/Newsweek Goliath. Last week the seventh preview edition of a new newsweekly--Sevendays, showed up on a few stands and reading rooms around here, and I have an eerie sense I am handling what may some day become a collector's item.
To begin with, Sevendays, published out of New York by something called the Institute for New Communications, proposes to be an alternative national newsweekly that will be attractive without being sectarian. Now that is a tall journalistic order if there ever was one, but the two issues I've seen look very strong.
Sevendays, now being sent to former subscribers of the now defunct Ramparts, will be published weekly beginning this fall and sold through subscriptions and newstands--but without advertising. (The Institute is a non-profit operation.) The current edition runs to 32 pages of news, analysis, features, and reviews, which makes it much smaller than Time/Newsweek but leaves about the same amount of copy since there aren't any ads.
Some samples from this month's preview edition include a nice tribute to the late Phil Ochs by Jerry Rubin, A Kirkpatrick Sale piece reminding readers that Howard Hughes made most of his money in the public till, and a poem by Allen Ginsberg. So much for big names: the rest of the articles are,--by and large,--good, solid stories written by a smattering of working reporters from around the country and the world.
Aside from graphics and expressed political viewpoints, Sevendays represents a real alternative to Time/Newsweek by treating other countries as if they mattered and by focusing on the politics and sociology of everyday life. By refusing to mythologize the rich and famous and by raising basic issues like power and wealth per se, Sevendays promises to become more than a left-wing imitation of those other two.
The biggest problem--probably the problem--the staff faces is walking the line between its goal of mass circulation and its commitment to intelligent, critical reporting. I just hope they don't end up putting Diane von You-Know-Who on the cover.