That was the Newsweek That Was

Don Irvine of Accuracy in Media says “RIP, Newsweek:”

The beginning of the end for the longtime number two news magazine began when the Washington Post Co. sold the publication to audio electronics billionaire Sidney Harman two years ago for $1, plus the assumed liabilities.

Harman didn’t buy Newsweek because he thought he could turn the perennial money-losing magazine around, but because he wanted to continue its liberal journalism tradition that had been fostered under the ownership of the Post.

But after suffering a reported $30 million in losses, Harman merged Newsweek with The Daily Beast hoping to take advantage of the digital savvy of the Beast and staunch the bleeding.

Instead of a merger though, it was more like a Daily Beast takeover with Tina Brown taking over as editor and the shuttering of the magazine’s website in favor of the Beast’s site.

Yet no matter what Brown tried, the magazine continued to sustain heavy losses as readers continued to migrate to the web and Brown de-emphasized hard news in an effort to save Newsweek.


Which brings us to Newsweek’s encomium to itself, which features interviews with assorted veterans, and old-timers formerly employed by the magazine. The quotes focus on the magazine’s highpoint, in more ways than one: the early 1960s, when it was acquired by the Washington Post’s Katharine and Phil Graham, who lavished plenty of money on the magazine* for more booze and reporters, but mostly more booze.

Curiously though, as the magazine’s staffers left the Mad Men era and presumably become less liquored up, the quality of its content seemed to decline in equal proportion:

David Alpern, writer (1966–2009): The other thing was the institutional devotion to what was thought of at that time as accuracy. The presumption was that once something got into print, it had gone through reporters, writers, researchers, editors, and represented not only one person’s take, but Newsweek’s. It was “Newsweek says…” There was a real commitment to accuracy.

Of course there was. Well, let’s just say that commitment to accuracy was certainly flushed away in later years.

And speaking of flushed away, according to Wikipedia (which has a similar level of accuracy as the modern-era Newsweek), the Grahams purchased Newsweek in 1961 for $8,985,000. A half century later, as Don Irvine notes at the start of this post, it sold for just slightly less.


* In spite of Phil getting caught having an affair with an Aussie Newsweek stringer in 1962, which led the Grahams’ divorce, and ultimately his suicide the following year.


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