Jacob Weisberg

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Jacob Weisberg is chairman and editor-in-chief of the Slate Group, the World Wide Web arm of Washington Post Company. He joined Slate in 1996, then succeeded Michael Kinsley as its editor, becoming group editor-in-chief in 2002 and was replaced by David Plotz.[1]

Before coming to Slate, he was a political writer for publications including The New Republic, Newsweek, New York Magazine, Vanity Fair and the New York Times Magazine.

On Patrick Buchanan

In a 1990 column in The New Republic, he wrote of Patrick Buchanan's problems with Jews. [2]

He does not speak of cutting the Jews down to size, or of being sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust. If he has expressed negative sentiments about Jews in the past, they are not quite the crude ones vented by his colleague from National Review," Joe Sobran, whom Weisberg does call antisemitic.

Weisberg finds the strongest argument against Buchanan is his ostensible affection for fascism. Even posthumously, he defends the Falangist strain of Francisco Franco , the "soldier-patriot" of Spain, and Antonio Salazar of Portugal. On the German variety, Buchanan's attitude is more equivocal. In 1977 he wrote:

Though Hitler was indeed racist and anti-Semitic to the core, a man who without compunction could commit murder and genocide, he was also an individual of great courage, a soldier's soldier in the Great War, a political organizer of the first rank, a leader steeped in the history of Europe, who possessed oratorical powers that could awe even those who despised him. But Hitler's success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.

Weisberg found "Buchanan's entire worldview is deeply disturbing. His instincts are powerfully authoritarian and anti-democratic, and, in a distinct sense, fascistic. A conspiratorial frame of mind and a misguided sense of loyalty lead Buchanan to view the world in terms of eternal struggles between Catholics and Jews, conservatives and liberals, anti-Communists and Communists, Americans and anti-Americans. These opinions should be cause for alarm, whether the person who holds them is anti-Semitic or not." Weisberg sees them as rooted in the 1930s American nationalism of Father Charles Coughlin and Charles Lindbergh. The hallmarks of this tradition are a fierce and unselective anti-communism, an animosity toward Britain, and an eccentric obsession with the menace of "Jewish internationalism.

News Media

He was interviewed, in July 2009, by The Economist about changes in the media. [3] His main points were:

  1. With the changes in journalism, "the financial basis of the leading organisations that perform large-scale systemic news reporting has collapsed, and it's not clear what, if anything, will replace it. Certain categories of coverage—foreign, local, investigative—don't look economically viable on a for-profit basis at the moment."
  2. "Web-only journalism is fundamentally viable because it doesn't have the huge fixed costs of print—ink, paper, binding, postage, etc. The marginal cost of distribution is zero. Most of what we spend at the Slate Group goes into creating original content. I think web advertising may well end up supporting big newsrooms if they can escape some of their legacy costs. The test I'd most like to see is of a well-financed, for-profit, web-only "newspaper" with no printed version. The problem is that the leading news organisations have a stake in web-only newspapers not working because they will accelerate the decline of the large, if faltering businesses that revolve around print.
  3. "we'll be healthier with more than one source of funding. The Economist has become the envy of all serious media because of the way it has developed multiple revenue streams over a period of decades. Slate’s secondary sources include syndication and licensing, charging for Slate on mobile devices like the Kindle, book publishing, and affiliate fees for referrals to Amazon."
  4. Competition on the internet is different—it's win-win, because we all link to each other and people are spending more time online. We're still at a stage where the web as a whole can all gain at the expense of other forms of media. In setting up the Slate Group, I've learned a lot from my friend Nick Denton, whose company Gawker Media has similarly attempted to create a family of publications with distinct personalities that nonetheless share an overall family resemblance and benefit from shared economies. Gawker gets how people use the web and understands the value of integrating technology and editorial. Slate has also learned from the Huffington Post—not so much about creating content, where they're still quite weak, but in terms of driving traffic through social media, search-engine optimisation, and commenting. I'd give a shout out to the The Guardian as well.
  5. "...Writing that's native to the web is different in ways that are crucial but subtle enough that you can miss them if you conceive of your audience as reading a printed product. The tone of good web writing grows out of email. It's more direct, personal, colloquial, urgent, witty, efficient. It doesn't waste your time. It reflects that engagement, responsiveness and haste of web surfers, as opposed to the more general passivity of print readers. It integrates the use of links into the creative and intellectual process as opposed to tacking them on afterwards. And it uses multimedia in an organic rather than an ornamental way."
  6. "We'll be much further along in the separation of reading and printing. Convergence of all forms of media will take place on mobile devices.

Fox News

Later in 2009, he wrote a Newsweek] article attacking Fox News.

Fox sponsored as much as it covered the anti-Obama "tea parties" this summer. Its "fact checking" about the president's health-care proposal is provided by Karl Rove. And weepy Glenn Beck has begun to exhibit a Strangelovean concern about government invading our bloodstream by vaccinating people for swine flu. With this misinformation campaign, Fox stands to become the first network to actively try to kill its viewers. That Rupert Murdoch may tilt the news rightward more for commercial than ideological reasons is beside the point. What matters is the way that Fox's model has invaded the bloodstream of the American media. By showing that ideologically distorted news can drive ratings, Ailes has provoked his rivals at CNN and MSNBC to develop a variety of populist and ideological takes on the news. In this way, Fox hasn't just corrupted its own coverage. Its example has made all of cable news unpleasant and unreliable. [4]


  1. Who We Are, Slate (magazine)
  2. Jacob Weisberg (22 October 1990), "The Heresies of Pat Buchanan: Cruising for a bruising", The New Republic
  3. The Economist, 11 July 2009
  4. "The O’Garbage Factor: Fox News isn't just bad. It's un-American.", Newsweek, 17 October 2009