Magazine article Newsweek

A Reader's Guide to the Colbert Issue

Magazine article Newsweek

A Reader's Guide to the Colbert Issue

Article excerpt

Byline: Jon Meacham

This is, to say the least, not your usual issue of NEWSWEEK. It is about Iraq, which is not unusual, but it has been guest-edited by Stephen Colbert, which is decidedly unusual. The story of how this came to be is told on the last page of the issue, in a Back Story feature in which Colbert offers his comments on my version of events. Still, I wanted to offer a word of introduction before handing things over to a political satirist who plays an egomaniacal right-wing talk-show host.

When Colbert and I first spoke about his guest-editing, he initially doubted he would have the time to do it. As he thought about it, however, he found the idea intriguing because of the trip to Iraq he was planning. He is there now, and will do his show from Baghdad this week. He would undertake the NEWSWEEK project, he said, if it allowed him to bring renewed attention to the war there and the men and women who are still fighting it.

What does a guest editor do? In Colbert's case, he designed the cover and chose places within the issue to insert his character's voice; the rewritten "recycling box" on this page, for instance, is Colbertian. So, among other things, are Colbert's Top of the Week column, the first Letters page (designated "From the Colbert Files"), Conventional Wisdom and the author biographies in The Take. He also added a note to the top of InternationaList. Everything he did in character is signed, so there should be no confusion about what is NEWSWEEK and what is Colbert.

For Features, we presented him with about a dozen options, all by NEWSWEEK writers and reporters; he and his team chose the nine that we are publishing. Colbert's only appearance in the Features section comes atop a page that he commissioned to show an artist's rendering of a possible Iraq War memorial. Culture is a Colbert-free zone, despite his suggestion that he should claim credit for writing any good book we review. …

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