Tag Archives: Tina Brown

Newsweek will disappear into the belly of the (Daily) Beast

I still remember a classic lede from Newsweek in the late 1970s — “Sihanouk is still Sihanouk,” or maybe it was “Sihanouk remains Sihanouk.” Whatever, there was a wonderful obscurity and a sense of inside knowledge to it that I found vastly appealing as a twentysomething trying to make sense of the world.

Starting around the time I encountered the Sihanouk story, I read Newsweek cover to cover for a good two decades. But Newsweek, unlike Sihanouk, had ceased to be Newsweek for quite a while. It became official in late 2010, when the Washington Post Co. dumped it and the magazine was merged with Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, a free website builder.

Well, King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia died earlier this week. And Newsweek died this morning with the announcement that its long run as a print publication would come to an end with its Dec. 31 issue. It will continue as a paid online magazine, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

For the past few years I had followed Newsweek mainly through a series of embarrassments, from the Michele Bachmann looney-tunes cover, to Niall Ferguson’s widely mocked, fact-challenged essay on President Obama, to the “Muslim Rage” fiasco.

At such moments I would recall that Brown never wanted Newsweek. In February 2011, Jeremy Peters reported in the New York Times that Brown “felt unburdened” when merger talks looked like they were going to fall apart. And though I can’t find a link to back this up*, I distinctly recall reading that it was Brown’s money guy, Barry Diller, who was convinced that the losses he was underwriting at the Daily Beast could only be stopped by marrying it to a print product. Today’s announcement shows that strategy failed.

I’m sure you’ll be reading and hearing a lot about how newsweeklies like Newsweek have been left behind by the Internet and a changing culture. But I think that’s demonstrably untrue. Years ago, there were three big newsweeklies: Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report. There still are, only now the competitors to Time are The Economist and The Week.

No, there’s no longer a place for three general-interest newsweeklies doing exactly the same thing. But The Economist and The Week succeed by serving different niches and different audiences. They may not be mass-market publications the way Time (sort of) still is. Then again, the whole idea of a mass market has broken down in recent years. Time’s continued success meant that Newsweek and U.S. News had to figure out how to narrowcast. They never did.

As for Newsweek’s fate, the paid-digital strategy strikes me as little more than a face-saving move. I can’t believe more than a handful of people are going to sign up. At some point I wouldn’t be surprised if Newsweek becomes just a tab within the Daily Beast — used for the sole purpose of signifying that it still exists. If just barely.

*Update: A Facebook friend came through with this story from Business Insider.

John Sununu levels a false accusation

John Sununu makes a false claim today in his Boston Globe column, which he devotes to a tiresome defense of Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

The former Republican senator writes that Brad DeLong, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, had called on Harvard University to fire the historian Niall Ferguson over his recent Newsweek cover story on the alleged failures of President Obama. “A Berkeley professor more or less demanded that Harvard ‘fire his ass’” is how Sununu puts it.

That would be a pretty amazing statement by DeLong if it were true. Sununu is claiming, in effect, that DeLong, a member of the academy, is calling on Harvard to violate a colleague’s academic freedom solely because he doesn’t like what he’s written. As I said: If it were true. It’s not.

In the online version of his column, Sununu helpfully provides a link to DeLong’s blog post. And here is what DeLong actually wrote:

Fire his ass.

Fire his ass from Newsweek, and the Daily Beast.

Convene a committee at Harvard to impose proper sanctions on this degree of intellectual dishonesty.

In an “update,” DeLong clarifies his Harvard reference: “Not that I claim to know what the proper sanctions are, you understand. But we should be inquiring into what they are.”

Now, let me hasten to say that I’m troubled by DeLong’s actual position — that Harvard should look into disciplining Ferguson. But that is a long, long way from calling on Harvard to fire him.

And I should note that DeLong and a number of other critics contend that Ferguson went far beyond expressing anti-Obama opinions, veering into deliberate falsehoods in order to bolster his argument that Obama’s presidency is a failure. (Here is the full bill of particulars compiled by the Atlantic, which I found via the estimable Charlie Pierce.) That could be considered academic misconduct, so DeLong is not completely off the mark — though it strikes me as extreme and unwarranted under the circumstances. Banging out a screed for Tina Brown isn’t exactly the same thing as falsifying academic research.

My issue isn’t with DeLong or Ferguson, though. It’s with Sununu, who has blithely and wrongly slimed DeLong. Perhaps because he didn’t name DeLong, he thought it was all right. Perhaps he thought including the phrase “more or less” would get him off the hook.

Finally, what is up with the Globe’s editors? If I can click on Sununu’s link, so could they.

Andrew Sullivan’s move is a big loss for the Atlantic

Andrew Sullivan

Interesting that Andrew Sullivan is taking his pioneering blog from the Atlantic to the Daily Beast/ Newsweek even though the Atlantic is one of the few media organizations that seems to have money to spend.

Michael Calderone’s interview with Sullivan makes it appear that Sullivan simply couldn’t say no to Tina Brown. In fact, there’s not even any mention of the Atlantic’s making a move to keep Sullivan. So perhaps Sullivan didn’t give the Atlantic a chance.

This is not good news for the Atlantic. According to M. Amedeo Tumolillo of the New York Times, Sullivan’s “Daily Dish” accounted for as much as a quarter of the Atlantic’s 4.8 million unique monthly visitors as recently as October.

I can’t say I’m much of a Sullivan fan. His blogorrhea makes it impossible to keep up with him. At times, he can be as irresponsible as anyone in blogland. Nevertheless, Sullivan is something of an online phenomenon. This is a big loss for the Atlantic, and a win for Tina Brown.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Tina Brown takes over the Weekly Beast

Tina Brown (right) with Arianna Huffington.

The media world is abuzz this morning over the merger of the Daily Beast and Newsweek, mainly because Tina Brown finds herself running a print magazine once again. I can’t get too excited. I never acquired the Beast habit, and I gave up on Newsweek years ago.

I will say that Brown’s announcement, in which she essentially awards Newsweek columns to Howard Kurtz and Peter Beinart, makes this move sound less than revolutionary, though I’ve got a lot of respect for Kurtz.

Brown’s a quirky, interesting editor, and maybe she can do something with Newsweek. But it won’t be Newsweek — that’s over.

Back in 1999, I wrote about Brown for the Boston Phoenix on the occasion of Talk magazine’s disastrous launch. What? You don’t remember Talk? Neither does anyone else.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Howard Kurtz is leaving for the Daily Beast

I realize this sort of thing is happening all the time these days. Still, it seems noteworthy when a Washington Post fixture like media reporter Howard Kurtz up and quits in order to go over to the new-media side — in his case, to Tina Brown’s Daily Beast.

Kurtz will continue hosting “Reliable Sources” on CNN.

It’s hard to think of this as anything other than a great move for Kurtz. What does that say about the Washington Post?

A cheap shot thrown at Diane Sawyer

Diane Sawyer

Diane Sawyer

Someone will probably try to blame this on the low journalistic standards of them there internets. But the perpetrator of today’s insult against Diane Sawyer — someone I had not previously considered defending — has worked for the Wall Street Journal and written for the New York Times and other publications. And her editor is the legendary Tina Brown.

But not to back into this. According to Rebecca Dana of Brown’s Daily Beast, Charles Gibson was “livid” when he learned that Sawyer would replace him as anchor of ABC’s “World News.” Here’s the relevant paragraph:

Gibson didn’t do interviews this time, but said in a statement that his “heart is full of gratitude.” Although they worked closely for more than a decade, Gibson makes no direct reference to Sawyer in the statement, and a source close to the departing anchor described him as “livid” that she’s succeeding him. An ABC executive called this “nonsense,” and Westin said he told Gibson from their earliest conversations about his retirement that Sawyer would be his replacement.

That’s it. There is nothing else in Dana’s longish piece to suggest that Gibson has a problem with Sawyer. And, as Westin says, there was really no other logical replacement (George Stephanopoulos?), so Gibson couldn’t have been surprised. Dana has one anonymous source who claims Gibson is “livid,” and another who says it’s “nonsense.” What is the value of this bit of gossip?

I realize that the source “close” to Gibson may in fact be Gibson himself. But since the reader has no way of knowing, so what? Moreover, we have no idea why Gibson might be livid. Is it because he thinks Sawyer lacks sufficient gravitas? Or does he suspect her of stealing pencils out of his desk drawer?

Sawyer comes off as quite solicitous of Gibson in Howard Kurtz’s account for the Washington Post, reportedly asking ABC News president David Westin, “Can’t we talk Charlie into staying?” Kurtz also writes:

The friendship between Sawyer and Gibson — who last worked together moderating a health-care forum with President Obama — dates to 1998, when both agreed to fill in at the floundering “GMA” in a temporary assignment that became permanent.

Kurtz is too good a reporter to have used the word “friendship” if he’d picked up any buzz that there was a rift between Sawyer and Gibson.

Sawyer will do a perfectly fine job of anchoring the evening newscast. She wouldn’t have been my choice, given her years as a tabloid sob sister. But, then again, I’m not in the demographic for the network newscasts: I’m only 53, about two decades too young.

As for Rebecca Dana’s gossipy account, it’s a cheap shot. Even if we later learn there’s something to it, her claim that Gibson was “livid” is based on one anonymous source, with no context or explanation. Not good enough.