Businessman Sidney Harman To Buy Newsweek
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
A telling moment today for the news business. The former media heavyweight Newsweek magazine has been sold to a wealthy entrepreneur at effectively, no cost.
As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, its longtime owner, the Washington Post Company, could no longer afford to bear its annual losses.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Sidney Harman made a fortune selling stereo equipment, but he's also been a major patron of such institutions as the Shakespeare Theatre here in Washington, and the Aspen Institute.
Former Time magazine editor Walter Isaacson is now the Aspen Institute's CEO. He says Harman's acquisition of Newsweek represents his philanthropic impulse, not his business acumen.
Mr. WALTER ISAACSON (CEO, Aspen Institute): When you're 91 years old and a billionaire, you can spend your money on airplanes or yachts or other toys, or you can spend the money getting involved in the civic life of the nation, and that's Sidney's way of doing things.
FOLKENFLIK: Harman is expected to reduce Newsweek's staff dramatically, but by far less than those who would seek to turn a significant profit from the publication.
James Fallows is the former editor of U.S. News & World Report.
Mr. JAMES FALLOWS (News Analyst, The Atlantic): The news weekly category, I think, is perhaps the most difficult one - both editorially and business-wise - in today's environment.
FOLKENFLIK: Fallows says he doesn't hold great hope for the future of the news weekly.
Mr. FALLOWS: They were invented to fill a need that no longer exists - to try to connect readers across the country who didn't have access to good, daily newspapers.
FOLKENFLIK: That was changed by the national distribution of big dailies, and by the instant connection of the Web.
Under editor Jon Meacham, Newsweek emphasized intensely argued essays about the news, much like The Economist magazine. But former Time editor Walter Isaacson says those star columnists should turn in rigorously reported pieces.
Mr. ISAACSON: Nowadays, we're even more inundated with opinions and data, and to connect the dots is a very important thing. And that's what a news magazine can do, you know, especially well.
FOLKENFLIK: Harman's wife, Jane Harman, is an influential member of Congress from Los Angeles. Given his age, she might soon inherit the publication - one more wrinkle for Newsweek.
David Folkenflik, NPR News, Washington.