Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine founded in 1933. It was a widely distributed newsweekly through the 20th century, with many notable editors-in-chief throughout the years. Newsweek was acquired by The Washington Post Company in 1961, under whose ownership it remained until 2010. Between 2008 and 2012, Newsweek experienced financial difficulties, leading to the cessation of print publication and a transition to an all-digital format at the end of 2012. The print edition then relaunched in March 2014 under different ownership.
Revenue declines prompted an August 2010 sale by The Washington Post Company to audio pioneer Sidney Harman—for a purchase price of one dollar and an assumption of the magazine's liabilities. Later that year, Newsweek merged with the news and opinion website The Daily Beast, forming The Newsweek Daily Beast Company. Newsweek was jointly owned by the estate of Harman and the diversified American media and Internet company IAC. In 2013, IBT Media announced it had acquired Newsweek from IAC; the acquisition included the Newsweek brand and its online publication, but did not include The Daily Beast. IBT Media rebranded itself as Newsweek Media Group in 2017 and rebranded back to IBT Media in 2018 after the spin-off. Since then Newsweek has remained an independent publisher.
Founding and early years (1933–1961)
News-Week was launched in 1933 by Thomas J. C. Martyn, a former foreign-news editor for Time. He obtained financial backing from a group of U.S. stockholders "which included Ward Cheney, of the Cheney silk family, John Hay Whitney, and Paul Mellon, son of Andrew W. Mellon". Paul Mellon's ownership in Newsweek apparently represented "the first attempt of the Mellon family to function journalistically on a national scale". The group of original owners invested around $2.5 million. Other large stockholders prior to 1946 were public utilities investment banker Stanley Childs and Wall Street corporate lawyer Wilton Lloyd-Smith.
Journalist Samuel T. Williamson served as the first editor-in-chief of Newsweek. The first issue of the magazine was dated February 17, 1933. Seven photographs from the week's news were printed on the first issue's cover.
In 1937 News-Week merged with the weekly journal Today, which had been founded in 1932 by future New York Governor and diplomat W. Averell Harriman, and Vincent Astor of the prominent Astor family. As a result of the deal, Harriman and Astor provided $600,000 in venture capital funds and Vincent Astor became both the chairman of the board and its principal stockholder between 1937 and his death in 1959.
In 1937 Malcolm Muir took over as president and editor-in-chief. He changed the name to Newsweek, emphasized interpretive stories, introduced signed columns, and launched international editions. Over time the magazine developed a broad spectrum of material, from breaking stories and analysis to reviews and commentary.
Under Post ownership (1961–2010)
The magazine was purchased by The Washington Post Company in 1961.
Osborn Elliott was named editor of Newsweek in 1961 and became the editor in chief in 1969.
In 1970, Eleanor Holmes Norton represented sixty female employees of Newsweek who had filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Newsweek had a policy of only allowing men to be reporters. The women won, and Newsweek agreed to allow women to be reporters. The day the claim was filed, Newsweek's cover article was "Women in Revolt", covering the feminist movement; the article was written by a woman who had been hired on a freelance basis since there were no female reporters at the magazine.
Richard M. Smith became chairman in 1998, the year that the magazine inaugurated its "Best High Schools in America" list, a ranking of public secondary schools based on the Challenge Index, which measures the ratio of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams taken by students to the number of graduating students that year, regardless of the scores earned by students or the difficulty in graduating. Schools with average SAT scores above 1300 or average ACT scores above 27 are excluded from the list; these are categorized instead as "Public Elite" High Schools. In 2008, there were 17 Public Elites.
Smith resigned as board chairman in December 2007.
Restructuring and new owner (2008–2010)
During 2008–2009, Newsweek undertook a dramatic business restructuring. Citing difficulties in competing with online news sources to provide unique news in a weekly publication, the magazine refocused its content on opinion and commentary beginning with its May 24, 2009, issue. It shrank its subscriber rate base, from 3.1 million to 2.6 million in early 2008, to 1.9 million in July 2009 and then to 1.5 million in January 2010—a decline of 50% in one year. Meacham described his strategy as "counterintuitive" as it involved discouraging renewals and nearly doubling subscription prices as it sought a more affluent subscriber base for its advertisers. During this period, the magazine also laid off staff. While advertising revenues were down almost 50% compared to the prior year, expenses were also diminished, whereby the publishers hoped Newsweek would return to profitability.
The financial results for 2009 as reported by The Washington Post Company showed that advertising revenue for Newsweek was down 37% in 2009 and the magazine division reported an operating loss for 2009 of $29.3 million compared to a loss of $16 million in 2008. During the first quarter of 2010, the magazine lost nearly $11 million.
By May 2010, Newsweek had been losing money for the past two years and was put up for sale. The sale attracted international bidders. One bidder was Syrian entrepreneur Abdulsalam Haykal, CEO of Syrian publishing company Haykal Media, who brought together a coalition of Middle Eastern investors with his company. Haykal later claimed his bid was ignored by Newsweek's bankers, Allen & Co.
The magazine was sold to audio pioneer Sidney Harman on August 2, 2010, for $1 in exchange for assuming the magazine's financial liabilities. Harman's bid was accepted over three competitors. Meacham left the magazine upon completion of the sale. Sidney Harman was the husband of Jane Harman, at that time a member of Congress from California.
Merger with The Daily Beast (2010–2013)
At the end of 2010, Newsweek merged with the online publication The Daily Beast, following extensive negotiations between the respective proprietors. Tina Brown, The Daily Beast's editor-in-chief, became editor of both publications. The new entity, The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, was 50% owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp and 50% by Harman.
Newsweek was redesigned in March 2011. The new Newsweek moved the "Perspectives" section to the front of the magazine, where it served essentially as a highlight reel of the past week on The Daily Beast. More room was made available in the front of the magazine for columnists, editors, and special guests. A new "News Gallery" section featured two-page spreads of photographs from the week with a brief article accompanying each one. The "NewsBeast" section featured short articles, a brief interview with a newsmaker, and several graphs and charts for quick reading in the style of The Daily Beast. This is where the Newsweek staple "Conventional Wisdom" was located. Brown retained Newsweek's focus on in-depth, analytical features and original reporting on politics and world affairs, as well as a new focus on longer fashion and pop culture features. A larger culture section named "Omnivore" featured art, music, books, film, theater, food, travel, and television, including a weekly "Books" and "Want" section. The back page was reserved for a "My Favorite Mistake" column written by celebrity guest columnists about a mistake they made that helped shape who they are.
Cessation of print format (2012)
On July 25, 2012, the company operating Newsweek indicated the publication was likely to go digital to cover its losses and could undergo other changes by the next year. Barry Diller, chairman of the conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp, said his firm was looking at options since its partner in the Newsweek/Daily Beast operation had pulled out.
On October 18, 2012, the company announced that the American print edition would be discontinued at the end of 2012 after 80 years of publication, citing the increasing difficulty of maintaining a paper weekly magazine in the face of declining advertising and subscription revenues and increasing costs for print production and distribution. The online edition is named "Newsweek Global".
Spin-off to IBT Media, return to print and profitability (2013–2018)
In April 2013, IAC chairman and founder Barry Diller stated at the Milken Global Conference that he "wished he hadn't bought" Newsweek because his company had lost money on the magazine and called the purchase a "mistake" and a "fool's errand".
On August 3, 2013, IBT Media acquired Newsweek from IAC on terms that were not disclosed; the acquisition included the Newsweek brand and its online publication, but did not include The Daily Beast.
On March 7, 2014, IBT Media relaunched a print edition of Newsweek with a cover story on the alleged creator of Bitcoin, which was widely criticized for its lack of substantive evidence. The magazine stood by its story.
IBT Media returned the publication to profitability on October 8, 2014.
In February 2017, IBT Media appointed Matt McAllester, then editor of Newsweek International, as global editor-in-chief of Newsweek.
IBT Media became known as Newsweek Media Group in 2017 and changed its name back to IBT Media after the spin-off (September, 2018).
In 2018, Newsweek journalists began reporting on their own management, after a raid by the Manhattan D.A. and the removal of servers from company offices. Columbia Journalism Review noted the probe "focused on loans the company took out to purchase the computer equipment", and several reporters were fired after reporting on the issue. The DA case with IBT Media was closed early 2020.
Spin-off from IBT Media (2018–present)
In September 2018, after completing the strategic structural changes initially announced in March of the same year, IBT Media spun off Newsweek, making it an independent publication for the first time in almost 60 years.
Circulation and branches
In 2003, worldwide circulation was more than 4 million, including 2.7 million in the U.S; by 2010 it reduced to 1.5 million (with newsstand sales declining to just over 40,000 copies per week). Newsweek publishes editions in Japanese, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Spanish, Rioplatense Spanish, Arabic, Turkish, Serbian, as well as an English-language Newsweek International. Russian Newsweek, published since 2004, was shut in October 2010. The Bulletin (an Australian weekly until 2008) incorporated an international news section from Newsweek.
Based in New York City, the magazine claimed 22 bureaus in 2011: nine in the U.S.: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago/Detroit, Dallas, Miami, Washington, D.C., Boston and San Francisco, and others overseas in London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, South Asia, Cape Town, Mexico City and Buenos Aires.
According to a 2015 column in the New York Post, Newsweek's circulation had fallen to "just over 100,000", with staff at that time numbering "about 60 editorial staffers", up from a low of "less than 30 editorial staffers" in 2013, but with announced plans then to grow the number to "close to 100 in the next year".
Allegations of sexism
In 1970, Eleanor Holmes Norton represented sixty female employees of Newsweek who had filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Newsweek had a policy of only allowing men to be reporters. The women won, and Newsweek agreed to allow women to be reporters. The day the claim was filed, Newsweek's cover article was "Women in Revolt", covering the feminist movement; the article was written by Helen Dudar, a freelancer, on the belief that there were no female writers at the magazine capable of handling the assignment. Those passed over included Elizabeth Peer, who had spent five years in Paris as a foreign correspondent.
The 1986 cover of Newsweek featured an article that said "women who weren't married by 40 had a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than of finding a husband". Newsweek eventually apologized for the story and in 2010 launched a study that discovered 2 in 3 women who were 40 and single in 1986 had married since. The story caused a "wave of anxiety" and some "skepticism" amongst professional and highly educated women in the United States. The article was cited several times in the 1993 Hollywood film Sleepless in Seattle starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Comparisons have been made with this article and the current rising issues surrounding the social stigma of unwed women in Asia called sheng nu.
Former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was featured on the cover of the November 23, 2009, issue of Newsweek, with the caption "How do you Solve a Problem Like Sarah?" featuring an image of Palin in athletic attire and posing. Palin herself, the Los Angeles Times and other commentators accused Newsweek of sexism for their choice of cover in the November 23, 2009 issue discussing Palin's book, Going Rogue: An American Life. "It's sexist as hell," wrote Lisa Richardson for the Los Angeles Times. Taylor Marsh of The Huffington Post called it "the worst case of pictorial sexism aimed at political character assassination ever done by a traditional media outlet". David Brody of CBN News stated: "This cover should be insulting to women politicians." The cover includes a photo of Palin used in the August 2009 issue of Runner's World. The photographer may have breached his contract with Runner's World when he permitted its use in Newsweek, as Runner's World maintained certain rights to the photo until August 2010. It is uncertain, however, whether this particular use of the photo was prohibited.
Minnesota Republican Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine in August 2011, dubbed "the Queen of Rage". The photo of her was perceived as unflattering, as it portrayed her with a wide eyed expression some said made her look "crazy". Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin called the depiction "sexist", and Sarah Palin denounced the publication. Newsweek defended the cover's depiction of her, saying its other photos of Bachmann showed similar intensity.
Unlike most large American magazines, Newsweek has not used fact-checkers since 1996. In 1997, the magazine was forced to recall several hundred thousand copies of a special issue called Your Child, which advised that infants as young as five months old could safely feed themselves zwieback toasts and chunks of raw carrot (to the contrary, both represent a choking hazard in children this young). The error was later attributed to a copy editor who was working on two stories at the same time.
In 2017, Newsweek published a story claiming that the First Lady of Poland refused to shake U.S. President Donald Trump's hand; Snopes described the assertion as "false". Newsweek corrected its story.
In 2018, Newsweek ran a story asserting that President Trump had wrongly colored the American flag while visiting a classroom; Snopes was unable to corroborate the photographic evidence.
In August 2018, Newsweek falsely reported that the Sweden Democrats, a far-right party, could win a majority in the 2018 Swedish parliamentary elections. Polls showed that the party was far away from winning a majority. By September 2018, Newsweek's inaccurate article was still up.
In 2018, former Newsweek journalist Jonathan Alter wrote in The Atlantic that since being sold to the International Business Times in 2013 that the magazine had "produced some strong journalism and plenty of clickbait before becoming a painful embarrassment to anyone who toiled there in its golden age". Former Newsweek writer Matthew Cooper criticized Newsweek for running multiple inaccurate stories in 2018.
2018 investigation and firings
The Manhattan District Attorney's office raided Newsweek's headquarters in Lower Manhattan on January 18, 2018, and seized 18 computer servers as part of an investigation related to the company's finances. IBT, which owned Newsweek, had been under scrutiny for its ties to David Jang, a South Korean pastor and the leader of a Christian sect called "the Community".
In February 2018, two top editors and an undetermined number of reporters were fired without explanation. Celeste Katz, a reporter who was dismissed, had reported on the company's affairs, including the raid by the Manhattan District Attorney's office; executive news editors Kenneth Li, who was also fired, had overseen the coverage. After the firings were announced, senior writer Matthew Cooper quit in protest. In a resignation letter that he posted on Twitter, Cooper denounced Newsweek Media Group both for the firings and for what he called a pattern of "reckless leadership".
Fareed Zakaria, a Newsweek columnist and editor of Newsweek International, attended a secret meeting on November 29, 2001, with a dozen policy makers, Middle East experts and members of influential policy research organizations that produced a report for President George W. Bush and his cabinet outlining a strategy for dealing with Afghanistan and the Middle East in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The meeting was held at the request of Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the Deputy Secretary of Defense. The unusual presence of journalists, who also included Robert D. Kaplan of The Atlantic Monthly, at such a strategy meeting was revealed in Bob Woodward's 2006 book State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III. Woodward reported in his book that, according to Kaplan, everyone at the meeting signed confidentiality agreements not to discuss what happened. Zakaria told The New York Times that he attended the meeting for several hours but did not recall being told that a report for the president would be produced. On October 21, 2006, after verification, the Times published a correction that stated:
The cover story of the January 15, 2015, issue, titled What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women proved controversial, due to both its illustration, described as "the cartoon of a faceless female in spiky red heels, having her dress lifted up by a cursor arrow", and its content, described as "a 5,000-word article on the creepy, sexist culture of the tech industry". Among those offended by the cover were Today Show co-host Tamron Hall, who commented "I think it's obscene and just despicable, honestly." Newsweek editor in chief James Impoco explained "We came up with an image that we felt represented what that story said about Silicon Valley ... If people get angry, they should be angry." The article's author, Nina Burleigh, asked, "Where were all these offended people when women like Heidi Roizen published accounts of having a venture capitalist stick her hand in his pants under a table while a deal was being discussed?"
In January 1998, Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff was the first reporter to investigate allegations of a sexual relationship between U.S. President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, but the editors spiked the story. The story soon surfaced online in the Drudge Report.
In December 2019, journalist Tareq Haddad said he resigned from Newsweek when it refused to publish his story about documents published by WikiLeaks concerning the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' report into the 2018 Douma chemical attack. Haddad said his information was inconvenient to the US government which had retaliated after the chemical attack. A Newsweek spokesperson responded that Haddad "pitched a conspiracy theory rather than an idea for objective reporting. Newsweek editors rejected the pitch."
Contributors and staff members
Notable contributors or employees have included:
Those who held the positions of president, chairman, or publisher under The Washington Post Company ownership include:
- Gibson McCabe
- Robert D. Campbell
- Peter A. Derow
- David Auchincloss
- Alan G. Spoon
- List of magazines by circulation
- Newsweek Argentina
- Newsweek Pakistan
- Newsweek gay actor controversy
- Russky Newsweek