Evan Thomas

Inside Media: Evan Thomas

March 29, 2009

Guest: Evan Thomas

By Lesette R. Heath, special programs coordinator

Since 1984, an elite team of Newsweek political reporters has gotten access to the high-stakes drama of the presidential campaigns by promising not to print anything until votes are cast on election night.

Evan Thomas, editor-at-large for Newsweek, described the 2008 presidential campaign as another "ambitious undertaking." In 2007, the magazine began talks with the candidates, including senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain, who agreed to uncensored press coverage.

Thomas took that coverage and wove it into a page-turning narrative. The result: "A Long Time Coming: The Inspiring, Combative 2008 Campaign and the Historic Election of Barack Obama."

If readers are looking for juicy political backbiting in the Obama camp, they’ll be disappointed.

"It was really the no drama Obama campaign, compared to Hillary Clinton’s, which was a walking disaster," he said.

Thomas acknowledged that during the campaign, some of the reporters traveling with Obama were far less enchanted with the candidate than the editors back at Newsweek headquarters.

"They were a little grumpy" because they weren’t getting the access they hoped for, Thomas said. "A lot of the editors my age, the baby boomers, those who protested in the 1960s, saw Obama as the fulfillment of the hope of that [Martin Luther] King speech in 1963."

So, without generalizing too much, Thomas offered that "yes, there was a distinct pro-Obama bias" in the media.

Although the magazine’s political coverage remains strong, Newsweek is not immune to the financial difficulties facing mainstream newsweeklies. In May, the editors will roll out a new and bolder Newsweek to attract a high-brow audience.

"Hopefully, we’ll be a bit more sophisticated. We’ll have more depth and less mass. It’s our attempt to deal with the economic realities and produce better journalism," he said.

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