How New Ownership Will Change Newsweek

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Sidney Harman has purchased Newsweek magazine from the Washington Post company for $1, a figure that some observers say is far too high. The 77-year-old weekly news magazine is losing $30 million annually despite distributing its print edition to almost two million readers. The 91-year-old Harman made his fortune in audio and stereo equipment and is married to Jane Harman, a Democratic congresswoman from California. Here's what people are saying about the deal and what it reveals about Newsweek and the media's future.

  • Newsweek Must Decide: Wonky or Fun?  Newsonomic's Ken Doctor proscribes, "There may be nothing worse than semi-wonkiness. In part, Newsweek is a journal of public policy options, and ones that the Obama Administration is in the midst of mulling, in education, health, foreign policy, finance and more. It could fully embrace its inner wonk, pointing to Obama 2012, and be clearly and prescriptively a shaper of the re-emergent liberal agenda, building on the work of Fareed Zakaria, Julia Baird, Daniel Lyons, Daniel Gross and Jonathan Alter.  Or it could drop the wonky clothing, and learn some lessons from its erstwhile sister Slate, and have more fun with the news. One way or the other, as almost all observers have agreed, the magazine must find a new identity, and a sharp one. Jon Meacham’s departure opens the door to that, but doesn’t at all guarantee it."
  • Post Sought Owner Who Would Make Few Changes  The New York Times' Jeremy Peters writes, "The sale to Mr. Harman, who started a business selling FM radios in the 1950s and built it into one of the largest audio equipment companies in the world, shows just how particular the Post Company has been in choosing a buyer. As the sale process played out over the last two and a half months, The Post and its chairman Donald E. Graham have turned away several potential buyers whom they believed would lead the magazine in a markedly different editorial direction or make deep staff cuts. Mr. Graham, who is said to be concerned not only with the magazine’s legacy but the legacy of his family’s stewardship of the magazine, wanted the sale to be as nondisruptive as possible."
  • Except That Editor Jon Meacham Is Out  Politico's Mike Allen and Keach Hagey report, "Jon Meacham will not remain as the magazine’s editor. ... Harman is expected to preserve the serious-minded, essentially New-Democratic tone Meacham set for the magazine. Meacham, 41, who has been Newsweek editor since 2006, has been planning to leave no matter who bought the magazine, according to sources inside the company."'
  • Will Harman Really Be Running It?  Conservative blogger Allahpundit writes, "Harman wanted a trophy to attest to his own Beltway influence, and since he’s already in the habit of charity, he realized he could buy one on the cheap and keep a few hundred people employed in a tough economy. ... Whoever will now be running the magazine for Harman (he’s 91) actually does want to change Newsweek’s editorial direction and figured that having Meacham there would simply be an obstacle to that."
  • How Many Staffers Will Keep Their Jobs?  New York Magazine's Chris Rovzar writes, "According to reports, Harman has pledged to keep onboard at least 250 of the magazine's 325-person staff."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.