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September 3, 2012
TORONTO, ON, Sep 3, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Confession time. As an undergraduate in early 1960s Dublin, I took to buying The Economist every week. But little, if any, of it was read on a regular basis. However, toting it around gave the impression that one was a serious person interested in serious stuff.
Back then, circulation was less than 100,000. Today’s number is around 1.5 million, more than half of which comes from the United States. All in all, not bad for a British publication that was founded in 1843 to fight for repeal of the protectionist Corn Laws.
In a current National Interest piece, Aram Bakshian Jr. describes The Economist as ‘the premiere worldwide newsweekly for the new global elite.’ He also characterises it as ‘a literate, informed (and occasionally smug) publication aimed at a literate, informed (and occasionally smug) readership.’
With respect to self-image, The Economist occupies what it calls ‘the extreme centre.’ While it vigorously supports free trade and free markets, it also favours an array of causes often associated with liberal politics. For instance, it was an early opponent of capital punishment. More recently, it has come out in favour of gay marriage and American gun control.
Nor does it beat about the bush when describing how it sees its own readers. They are people ‘with higher than average incomes, better than average minds but with less than average time.’ Lack of self-esteem is clearly not a problem here!
In Bakshian’s piece, he talks about reading 22 recent issues from cover to cover in order to get a detailed fix on current quality. Not being that ambitious, I settled for one – the August 25-31 edition.
So what did I find?
Unsurprisingly, there are three stories – including the cover – on the state of play in the American presidential election. Overall, they’re pretty good.
To be sure, if you’re closely following the situation from a range of sources, you won’t learn anything new. But if you’re not paying close attention and want an informative single-source update, you’re on pretty solid ground.
There’s also other, less familiar, stuff.
A feature on Glasgow addresses the fact that ‘Glaswegians die younger than other Britons and nobody knows why.’ Even after appropriate adjustments are made for age, poverty and gender, significant differences persist. Apparently, the gap first appeared between 1950 and 1980 and accelerated thereafter. While the discrepancy was initially driven by a greater number of deaths from cancer and heart disease, the post-1980 difference was accentuated by deaths from suicide, violence, drug abuse, alcohol and traffic accidents.
A piece on the airlines discusses their virtually non-existent long-term profit margins. Despite efforts to improve the bottom line by eliminating the middlemen, the latter prosper while the carriers struggle.
Then there’s an article on the emergence of package pick-up services. For instance, Amazon now has a growing network of delivery lockers in local shops where the customer can enter an access code and pick-up a package. That way, hassles with delivery can be avoided.
And there’s a report on a new Icelandic study published in Nature. According to the findings, children conceived with the sperm of older fathers – ‘ageing Lotharios’ – are significantly more likely to inherit gene mutations, which provides further support for previously discovered links between older fathers and higher rates of schizophrenia and autism in their offspring.
In Dublin 50 odd years ago, my late father brought Time home with him every week. It wasn’t that our house was short of newspapers. There were three dailies – one in the morning and two in the evening – plus two Sunday papers. But my father felt that Time, then at the height of its game, gave him a digestible overview of international, particularly American, affairs.
And it did, although it was an overview distinctly flavoured by a specific worldview. The same thing applies to the modern incarnation of The Economist.
While not as easy a read as the old Time, The Economist’s reach is broad and it generally goes into significantly more depth than Time did. And given a healthy dose of due diligence wariness on your part, encounters with it will likely leave you better informed.
Mind you, that assumes you actually read it rather than just toting it around to make an impression!
Troy Media columnist Pat Murphy worked in the Canadian financial services industry for over 30 years. Originally from Ireland, he has a degree in history and economics.
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