America’s Collision Course With The Debt Ceiling
As the nation counts down to default, Diane talks to longtime Congress watcher Norm Ornstein about the debt limit negotiations, what's at stake and whether he sees a way forward.
Newsweek was founded in the depths of the great depression in 1933. Businessman Sidney Harman bought the magazine last year, for just $1. He also assumed more than $40 million in liabilities. The Daily Beast arose during the recession in 2008. The news and opinion website was estimated to be about $10 million a year in the red. Now under a newly formed Newsweek Daily Beast Company, Tina Brown has taken over as editor-in-chief of both publications. Tina Brown and Sidney Harman talk about their joint venture into print and cyberspace and whether it can provide a new model for journalism to succeed in the 21st century.
Why did Sidney Harman buy Newsweek?
“Well, in the first place, it was available,” the 92 year-old businessman told Diane.
“One of the beauties of reaching this ancient age is that you don’t stumble a great deal before deciding something is worth saving. My initial instinct, with respect to Newsweek, was that it was bloody well worth saving.”
Given the considerable debt Harman has taken on in purchasing the magazine, Diane asked Tina Brown about the challenges of keeping costs down.
“Actually, I’ve always lived within a budget,” said Brown (who was formerly editor-in-chief at both Vanity Fair and The New Yorker). At Newsweek, Brown said,”the cost had spiraled out of control simply because of the old structures that had been left in place…it was doing things in a way that no longer applied to the modern world.”
Several viewers sent in questions wondering if Brown was planning on increasing Newsweek’s celebrity coverage. Brown said that although this week’s cover features Kate Middleton, Prince William’s bride-to-be, Newsweek is primarily a news-focused magazine.
“Every seriously fulfilled life I have encountered in real time of in literature is on examination a balance between the serious and the seductive,” Harman added. “The beauty of this combination is that The Daily Beast speaks the language and the tempo of its audience.Newsweek speaks the language and tempo of its. That’s what makes for one hell of a combination.”
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Sidney Harman has made millions in industry, he's been a top federal appointee, a college president, a philanthropist and husband of a U.S. Congresswoman. For his 92nd birthday, he bought the venerable but money losing Newsweek. Then there's Tina Brown, the former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, she spent the last two years on a news and opinion website financed by media mogul Barry Diller. Harman and Brown recently joined forces as partners in cyberspace and in print. Sidney Harman joins me in the studio to talk about the new Newsweek Daily Beast Company and Tina Brown joins us from the NPR studios in New York.
MS. DIANE REHMI hope you'll join us as well. You can call us, 800-433-8850, send us your e-mail to email@example.com, you can join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Sidney Harman, how good to see you.
MR. SIDNEY HARMANAnd how good to see you, my dear.
REHMThank you. And Tina Brown, wonderful to have you with us.
MS. TINA BROWNVery good to be here, Diane.
BROWNAnd Sidney, hi.
REHMSidney, tell us why you decided to buy Newsweek.
HARMANWell, in the first place, it was available. But more meaningfully, clearly, it needed no counsel from anyone to recognize that this venerable institution of great consequence to the American life, the American culture, the American history was in significant trouble. One of the beauties of reaching this ancient age is that you don't stumble a great deal before deciding something is worth saving. My initial instinct, with respect to Newsweek, was that it was bloody well worth saving.
HARMANAnd I have to tell you quickly, Diane, that 95 percent of those people with whom I spoke of the prospect initially thought it , mad, a whimsical effort by a terribly old man to reestablish a connection with life. I've made enormous progress. Today, only 85 percent of those people think so.
REHMBut at the same time, you retain your youthful vigor, your interest in life, your interest in what's happening in the world and what better way to maintain that vigor and interest than by buying such a magazine.
HARMANWell, I appreciate that comment. I find irresistible, the suggestion that in addition to vigor, there is considered intellect at work. I did not come to Newsweek as a business proposition, I came to it with the conviction that I indicated earlier and with the conceit that I had serious contributions to make and they were not in the bookkeeping department.
REHMDid you have Tina Brown in mind when you decided to buy the magazine?
HARMANI have had Tina Brown in mind...
REHM(laugh) I figured you'd say that.
HARMAN...every time I've had a creative thought for the last 30 years. I did not think of it as conditional, but with that question, how could anybody resist such a contemplation.
REHMTina Brown, what was your initial reaction?
BROWNWell, you know, having been engaged in cyberspace for the last two years creating this very vibrant little web animal, The Daily Beast, you know, I went back and forth initially thinking, well, print, print, you know, should I return to print now for The New Yorker or Vanity Fair. I thought, really, I probably put print behind me, but, I mean, two things really made me very attracted to Newsweek.
BROWNFirstly, as Sidney said, it is a great publishing brand. One of two or three really in the world which has a global reach, an integrity that is recognized throughout the world and, you know, the quixotic in me, you know, Sidney may not think he's quixotic, but I certainly have a kind of editorial quixotic in the sense that I felt, you know, there's so little good journalism allowed to play anymore that this could be another outlet for journalists. We really need one, you know, there's -- they're falling fast and the idea that yet another great publication might go out of business was in a way, to me, unbearable.
BROWNAnd the second factor really was Sidney because Sidney -- you know, there's a lot of really unserious people getting into the publishing world, a lot of people who don't really understand good journalism and what it is and I always felt from the very beginning of talking with Sidney that a desire to publish great journalism was really what motivated him. You know, it would be nice if it could, you know, be a magazine obviously that worked commercially, but first in his mind was the need to preserve something of intellectual and editorial integrity and that's really what made me start to think about it very seriously.
REHMSo Sidney, what will your role be? What is your role?
HARMANIt has a number of expressions. First, with Barry Diller, we provide experienced, intelligent, professional oversight of the operation. Although I said earlier that I did not engage this as an enterprise to make money, I darn well engage it as an enterprise that can't forever lose giant volumes of money. It needs to operate in professional fashion. I believe with Steven Cohen, our very bright, very talented CEO, and with the oversight that Diller and Harman provide, that compass, that financial, professional compass is there. I have the conceit that I bring a fairly broad band, intellectual competence to bear here.
HARMANIt would be difficult if somebody in my role were lacking that and still wanted to keep pace with the Tina. But she and I have frequent serious conversation about the azimuth, the direction, the focus, the emphasis of the publication. I have not difficulty ever recognizing the separation of Church and State, I am for Tina, in my modest view, a valuable resource.
REHMAnd Tina, what about editorial independence for you? How important is that and to what degree do you have that?
BROWNWell, you know, we talked about all this before we got into partnership together and we've worked out a great relationship. I mean, you know, the thing is that I do have total editorial independence with Sidney, but as he says, he's there as a resource and Sidney's so interesting and intelligent to talk to, quite honestly, that I would be insane not to consult him and I do. And, you know, that is something that throughout my career, I have always felt was important, was to be a collaborative.
BROWNYou know, in my days at Conde Nast, when I was editing Vanity Fair, the editorial director there, Alexander Libermen, the great sort of Russian, you know, editorial director who was a man in his 80s who had been with the company for 30 or 40 years, some of the editors didn't get along with Alex and considered him an intrusion. I always considered Alex a great resource because he knew so much, he'd met so many people, he was so interesting and I feel very much the same way about Sidney and I have a similar relationship with Barry Diller because during my two or three years just at The Beast with Barry, you know, he's an incredibly smart man, you know, and I feel very lucky to have, you know, such people, quite honestly, in my professional, you know, midst.
REHMAt the same time, you're going to have to, I would think, Tina, worry about keeping cost down, more so than you ever did at either Vanity Fair, even The New Yorker.
BROWNWell, actually, you know, I've always lived within a budget. You know, Vanity Fair, I asked for and got a budget as soon as I arrived. The New Yorker was in a very quixotic when I took it over and we got the cost down and we've got it into the shape that it is today, you know, a magazine that's viable. The same will be true of Newsweek. The cost had spiraled out of control simply because of the old structures that had been left in place, not, you know, because of any particular blame of any individuals, but simply because it was doing things in a way that no longer applied to the modern world.
BROWNAn one of the great things about having worked in the web for the last two and half years, he'd really seeing how to do things in a more nimble way, a faster way, using and deploying, you know, young people to do certain things and to be to grow young talent and to see ways to do things in a cost-cutting way and we're doing that at Newsweek and we've already got ourselves, I think, on a much better course. I think six months from now, you're going to see, you know, a very different picture.
HARMANI would add to that that this is not a conjunction of Newsweek and The Daily Beast as though you picked each of them up in the cart on the way out of the store. This is a genuine synthesis, each drawing on the talent, the unique capability of the other and that ultimately, and even now, is given financial expression. We're pretty taut, pretty tight, carefully controlled financial instrument today and we're surprising a great many observers as a consequence.
REHMDr. Sidney Harman is executive chairman of the Newsweek Daily Beast Company. Tina Brown is editor in chief of Newsweek and the Daily Beast. Short break, when we come back, a few more questions, then your calls, your comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnd if you've just joined us, Sidney Harman is here in the studio. He's executive chairman of The Newsweek Daily Beast Company. Tina Brown is in a studio in New York, an NPR studio. She's editor-in-chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast. And together, they have created what they hope will become the way of the future in terms of both print, online journalism. And if you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. Tina, we heard this morning on Morning Edition about Andrew Sullivan joining The Daily Beast. Tell us about that.
BROWNWell, as a matter of fact, I was just e-mailed Sidney on my Blackberry in the break to say that Andrew just went live on The Daily Beast, so we're very excited that Andrew, who's been doing his Daily Dish at The Atlantic, has brought his whole little team to us and he's going to be running his blog with The Daily Beast, so it's fantastic to have him. And he'll also be writing for Newsweek whenever he can.
REHMWhy does that...
BROWNSo he's a great (unintelligible).
REHMWhy does that mean so much to you, Tina?
BROWNBecause he's a very talented writer, a terrific mind, a swashbuckling intellectual, a great public debater. Andrew is a major talent. I've been friends of his for a very long time from the UK days, so I was him wooing for really nearly a year before we got him to come. And I'm thrilled that he's here and that the Daily Dish is now part of The Daily Beast.
HARMANI share Tina's enthusiasm for Andrew. He is as nearly sui generous in a gathering of significant minds as I've encountered. This guy is protean. His ability to contemplate a circumstance and dissolve -- resolve it in terms that are so clear and striking and exciting and stimulating is unique. To have that talent at loose, both at The Beast and Newsweek is, I think, a harbinger of the character of these publications as they develop.
BROWNYou know, it's wonderful, really, because we have now in a sense the sort of the digital energy of The Beast is helping to power Newsweek and the kind of gravitas of Newsweek is strengthening The Beast. And the two things really work well together. And so we're having, you know, some terrific writers joining us. You know, we have Niall Ferguson, a Harvard professor and economist who now does a column in Newsweek, you know, we have, of course, writers such as Chris Dickey, who were always in Newsweek but now writing for The Daily Beast, so it's a very exciting sort of collaboration of talents now that we have between these two very different media brands that actually belong together in terms of audience.
HARMANAnd Tina, before we -- not Tina -- Diane, before we run out of time, I wanna make sure of something. Everything we've spoken about has sounded prospective. This is what we think is going to happen, this is what we determined will happen. It's happening. I hope you've been looking at the remarkable development of that magazine over the last couple of months.
REHMI have it on my desk as we speak. But here's what I want to know. You talked earlier, Sidney, about, you know, this thing has got to become profitable and the question is, when -- how long will you give it?
HARMANFirst of all, I have never said it has got to become profitable. I don't care if it never becomes profitable. It would be delightful because it would spank all the cynics, all the know-betters, but no. It needs to get to the point where it's operating on its own fuel. I thought initially that three years might be the determinant, that is, if at the conclusion of three years I didn't see that happening, I would say, I made the investment in good spirit, I was doing God's work, I was sure she would take care of me at some future point and close it. I don't even think in those terms anymore. I think by the end of three years, there's a very good chance that we're going to have a surprisingly profitable enterprise and I'm no child. I don't say that kind of thing foolishly.
REHMWhat about the debt you've taken on with the magazine?
HARMANThe debt is substantial, but the principle element in the debt is that obligation to fulfill subscriptions. If we build the instrument that Tina and I are talking about, that becomes academic. People get alarmed by that kind of thing and that very alarm is what I see as opportunity.
REHMTina Brown, how do you believe you can create that kind of momentum? You're the first female editor of a major weekly news magazine and the first edition, I gather, that you put out was with Hillary Clinton on the cover. Maybe that wasn't the first, but how do you see yourself in this magazine moving it forward?
BROWNWell, first of all, I know we can generate momentum because I've been able frankly to do that with the Daily Beast in the last two years. I mean, from the start -- a standing start, we're now at nearly, this month, 7 million unique visitors to the Daily Beast, over 50 million page views, which is really astonishing from a standing start. So there's no doubt that that, you know, editorial energy in the team that I've assembled can, of course, when you cross pollinate it with Newsweek, you know, revive the excitement in the magazine.
BROWNAnd frankly, the last four issues, I am extremely proud of. I mean, this current issue, which has Kate Middleton on the cover, you know, is just a really lively good magazine. And, you know, it's not, in that sense, a mystery. You simply get in there, you energize your team, you shine a spotlight on the talent. You know, what I love about this current -- the last few issues of Newsweek is you have as many pieces by brilliant young members of this Newsweek team who are sort of in the bowels of the magazine, if you like, who are now coming forth and showing what they can do. A wonderful piece this week about the shadowy sinister world about Syria written by really a young kid on the staff who just came forward in the last few weeks as someone who's a major star for us.
BROWNSo I'm very excited about the young talent that's there. And then there's so many great people there, you know, like Christopher Dickey or John Alter who, you know, are already such great talents that actually they just simply needed an editor to come in and be excited about their work again. So you're seeing already, I think, in Newsweek an enormous vitality which people who are picking it up are beginning to really see the change.
REHMWe've had a few e-mails wondering if Tina is or will be increasing the celebrity aspect to Newsweek and if that could damage the news aspect of it. Tina.
BROWNNo. Actually, Newsweek has always had, every three or four issues, a personality or something -- somebody from the world of entertainment or television on the cover. We are primarily a news focus magazine and the last three issues that I've done -- last week, we had an extraordinary cover based on the Japan, you know, tsunami and the terrible things that are happening there. The preceding week, we had another, just as the earthquake happened, an incredible news cover there, before that Hillary Clinton. Another week, we had, you know, the revolutions in Egypt.
BROWNSo you're not seeing celebrity covers as a run. We have this week Kate Middleton because the wedding is coming and frankly, because I felt as springtime is here and as we've had, you know, an entire winter of mayhem, how great it would be to have one cover which showed a wedding about to happen. And I think the readers are going to love that change of pace for this week. But inside, you have this great Syria piece, you have an extraordinary piece about rape in the military, which is a really harrowing look at what's happening and underreported in the military at the moment.
BROWNAnd, you know, one of the things that I've introduced, which I think is very exciting, is the return to great photo journalism. You know, Newsweek had sort of banished photo journalism from its pages and we now have every issue six pages at the front which captures the world sort of at a glance with most extraordinary photographs. I mean, this week we have an amazing photograph of a uncollected body in Japan just sort of melting into the earth, which is really an eerie picture.
BROWNWe have an incredible photograph of the rebels in The Ivory Coast. We have an amazing picture of Yemen. You know, so these are the things that you're seeing Newsweek now, the kind of culmination of visual gritty photo journalism with essays and smart commentary, you know, and reporting. Because reporting had really been sort of somewhat left out of the pages of Newsweek recently and I've really taken it back to, you know, let's get the great reporting in there.
HARMANI wanted to simply add that every seriously fulfilled life I have encountered in real time or in literature is on examination a balance between the serious and the seductive. And in answer to your question, if Newsweek and the Daily Beast are to be that ideal reflection of the world and how we live in it, it should by all means be that balance of the serious and the seductive.
REHMAll right. I'm going to take a caller from Munich, Germany. Good morning, Matt, you're on the air.
MATTHi, thanks very much.
MATTMy question simply is, I used to live and work in the Washington area. I worked there for over 20 years and I would always look forward to having The Washington Post and Newsweek. I now live in Munich and each day, I can access Newsweek, The Post, Slate and the Hill all online. So what would Mr. Harman and Ms. Brown say to the increasingly globalized reader that would make me want to subscribe to their publication when there are so many resources available online?
HARMANWell, I'll take a quick shot at that because my answer to that would be very much my answer to why the heck am I doing this. The familiar kick about Newsweek, any of the weekly publications, is that they're in anachronisms that readers whether in Munich or Milano or Miami know the news before we even get to press. Who needs us? I tell you that the world needs us and you are sitting in a geographic position where you must recognize it because the world is infinitely more complicated than at any time in history. And the obligation and the challenge to Newsweek is to once a week make it comprehensible to connect those ineffable dots to make sense of it all. None of that, or almost none of that, is going on in that web of material that you were identifying.
REHMNow, Tina, what about the web? How much of Newsweek is going to be available and at what cost?
BROWNWell, all of Newsweek will be available online at various points of its publishing cycle. Not necessarily all on day one of its publication, but there is -- you know, there is a big difference between cut downs of pieces that appear, you know, with the news buzz and the whole package of the magazine as read together in different rhythms and times. I mean, you know, we have a fantastic art section now we've called Omnevol (sp?). We have a wonderful front book section now we've called News Beast. We have commentary, we have features and it's the way this package is put together with the culmination of the photo journalism that makes a very, very satisfying overall intellectual sort of meal, if you like.
BROWNAnd I am, myself, a consumer of the web, obviously, in the most voracious fashion. Since I put out the Daily Beast, I'm completely attuned to the rhythm of our friend in Munich here, but I also know that when I'm on a plane or when I'm coming home at the weekend or whatever, I also do like do have that secondary rhythm of a more contemplative, more, you know, holistic, if you like, approach to what has been going on in the world and that is what Newsweek can, you know, offer.
REHMTina Brown, she's editor-in-chief of Newsweek and the Daily Beast and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We'll go now to King, N.C. Good morning, Roscoe.
ROSCOEHello, how are you today?
REHMFine thank you, sir.
ROSCOEThank you. I would like to say that -- I would like to thank the gentleman for purchasing Newsweek because I believe that Newsweek is an institution in this country like Time and Life. And I think that in this day and age of getting information instantly, like as it happens, people are missing the big picture. They don't stop long enough to look at the whole thing because they're bombarded by information every second. So with something like Newsweek and the Daily Beast, there's honest reporting again, people are actually trying to report the news unfiltered as it should be instead of network news as it is today and let the reader make their mind up with the facts.
REHMThanks for calling, Roscoe. And that should make you feel rather good, Sidney.
BROWNIt makes me feel happy.
HARMANWell, I was waiting to offer a difference about the premise of your earlier question to Tina, which in effect asked, can I get Newsweek full on the web. The big mistake that Newsweek made before we showed up was to assume that the web represented just another form of distribution. And so it did, in fact, transfer Newsweek whole to the web. That, I think, is a serious error.
HARMANYou do not have to be much of an anthropologist to know that the culture defined and given expression by the web is quite different from that culture which reads the magazine, whether in print or in pixel. And so the beauty of this combination is that the Daily Beast speaks the language and the tempo of its audience. Newsweek speaks language and the tempo of its. That's what makes for one hell of a combination.
REHMI agree. Do you agree, Tina?
BROWNYes, I think that's right. And, you know, obviously there is definitely a cross pollination between the audiences.
BROWNBut their audience is in different rhythms of their reading, you know. Because the fact is is that one doesn't go online and read every darn thing, you know, that any website offers. I mean, you know, there'll be hits from Newsweek that you'll see on The Daily Beast, but there'll be a huge amount of else in Newsweek that, you know, you're gonna wanna read in that magazine. So I don't see it as any conflict actually, and I think that they go brilliantly together. Otherwise, you know, I wouldn't have wanted to take on the additional challenge of Newsweek. I would've simply been writing the success of The Daily Beast and not wanted to get involved.
REHMWhat about job cuts, Sidney?
HARMANThat's a taxing and appropriate question. It's a function really of your perspective. I don't like the question. I can't avoid the question, but how about job retention, Diane? That's what we're very busily engaged in. We're keeping a significant number of people employed in an engagement which brightens their lives.
REHMDr. Sidney Harman, he's executive chairman of Newsweek Daily Beast Company. Short break and more of your calls when we come back.
REHMLet's go right back to the phones. Here is Joanne in Clearwater, Fla. Good morning to you.
JOANNEGood morning, Diane. Thank you and good morning to Tina Brown and to Sidney Harman as well. I'm calling this morning to congratulate Tina Brown for, what I see, making the deciding difference in Newsweek Magazine. Because an avid reader of Newsweek since 1986 and I'm just one of those folks who really enjoy holding the magazine in my hand and I just got to say that sometimes it just takes a woman's touch. Ms. Brown, really, really, your energy is very exciting and good for the magazine.
BROWNWell, thank you so much. I mean, I feel we're making an impact and certainly, you know, you're going to see it evolving over the next weeks and months, so stay with it and I think by six months' time, you're going to see something pretty exciting.
HARMANAnd I add my appreciation. It's the first time I've decided that I've got a woman's touch.
REHMTina, tell me about your schedule? I know you have children. You have a family. How do you do it?
BROWNWell, you know, it's interesting. It is a little crazy, I have to see. I'm up very, very early and I'm going to very late at night. My kids are now at college, which, you know, in some ways, I think it really took Newsweek and The Daily Beast to fill up that space that they left behind. You know, when you're just used to working incredibly hard with kids, once they leave, you suddenly realize that you have even more time to spend and of course, you know, I just love my work.
BROWNSo I am afraid my work is also my hobby, so I am a bit of workaholic, but I've always just loved my work. I love -- you know, I love journalism, I love stories, I love working with writers and so, you know, it really is kind of 24/7 and I don't resent it.
REHMHere's a comment on Facebook. "How is Newsweek going to differentiate itself from Time Magazine? The two have a history of direct competition, Time is holding its own, but Newsweek has struggled." Sidney?
HARMANI think Newsweek has made significant progress in a very short time. My objection is not to compete with Time. I'd be delighted to leave room for that other kid on the block. Our job is to do our job. I indicated earlier what I think is central to it and Tina has given expression to how you get it done. The centrality is to make sense of the world. Not to report the news, but to make the inexplicable explicable. That's something I think we are developing a great skill at and I would be perfectly willing to match how well we do that with anybody. One last footnote to that, people used to wonder, I spoke of the magazine as anachronism.
HARMANWho in the world would reach for a weekly? By the time it appears, we know all of that, but that reflective approach that Tina referenced, that contemplation, that connecting of the dots, that making the sense of it, well, it's the perfect periodicity for it. A month is too long, a day too quick. We've got the ideal one, it's a weekly.
REHMI agree. Let's go to Covington, Ky. Good morning Troy.
TROYGood morning, Diane. Thanks for having me on.
TROYI just wanted to say that as a guy in my 40s, I really embraced this new media, new technology. I'm on the computer all day and love reading stories on the Internet. I've got -- I had a Kindle and I have a smartphone and at the end of the day, I found myself just getting really fatigued with all this electronic media, so I actually got rid of my Kindle and went back to paper magazines.
TROYBut I was wondering what had pulled me away from paper was what the gentleman just mentioned and that is by the time I got in my hands, whether it's the daily paper or magazines, I've already read the stories online since I read so much, so I see how it's really important not to just reiterate what's already been online. I just wondering if Newsweek was just going to be doing that. And so what I...
BROWNNo. You know, it's interesting. Troy, it's so great to hear, you know, what you said, actually. I mean, I'm encouraged by it, but I also I want to say, you know, a magazine now, a weekly magazine today, has to be a very different kind of animal than it was, you know, 10, 15, 20 years ago because we have to know be more reconstructive, more prescient, more inventive, more interpretive.
BROWNThat is the role really now of a weekly magazine, to play those roles because that's not what you're really getting online. I mean, you know, putting out The Daily Beast as I do, you know, which a 24/7 minute by minute thing, I understand that that is a hot medium, as I call it. You know, it's a hot medium. It's about the breaking news, it's about the punchy opinion, it's about being on point, on point all the time. Whereas, you know, Newsweek can take a step back and be both future casting and reconstructive in a much deeper way. I mean, we have a great piece, for instance, this week about why the French President Sarkozy, you know, actually went to war, you know, and the influences on him that made him take that decision.
BROWNThis is the kind of piece that, you know, that isn't a quick, hot piece. It's a piece which took reporting, which took discussion, which took a longer time to marinate and it's a very, very interesting and well-informed piece that you wouldn't really just get as a sort of daily hit on a website. So I mean, there is a different kind of a menu that you go for in a magazine and yet at the same time, it plays in very well into the web content.
HARMANI want to add and this may be, from my point of view, the one significant thing I've got to say. The tradition of journalism has been lineal, top down, the journalists tell you the truth, we teach you. That is not where Newsweek is headed. Newsweek is not seeking a transactional relationship with its readers, in the sense that we deliver and you accept. We're looking for an active, dynamic relationship and when Tina uses the word prescient, it's perfect not just for us, but for the readers. We are going to be increasingly the reader's tool so that the reader becomes more prescient.
REHMThat's well put. Tina, do you want to add to that?
BROWNYes. Well, you know, for instance, like last issue, we did a feature that had absolutely extraordinary coverage everywhere. I mean, it was picked up by every single news show and this was a piece that really examined the state of what we called American ignorance. We asked the question, how dumb are we? And we had, actually gave American citizens a sampling of 1,000 in a poll, the citizenship test. And we discovered an extraordinary number of people could not answer the questions. And from there we went on to talk about why is that, you know, we seem to becoming more and more ignorant. What is that about, education? Is it about culture? And it was a very, very interesting piece that got a tremendous feedback.
BROWNI mean, it was on "The Bill Maher Show," it was on, you know, "NBC Nightly News," it was on "The Today Show." And so, you know, if a magazine is inquiring enough and inventive enough, there is plenty of things that will set the agenda, which will actually lead people as opposed to being a magazine that follows.
REHMAll right. to Martinsville, Ohio. Good morning Ralph.
RALPHHey, good morning. I really appreciate the time here. I use the iPad and I use a lot of electronic gadgets. I'm 69 years old, I listen to ABC news and they have in-depth coverage that you can go to separately if you want more in-depth news. I wondered if Newsweek was going to something similar to that for those people like me who would like to be able to go online and get the in-depth as well.
BROWNWell, we actually -- you know, yes, a matter of a fact, one of the things we've instituted in Newsweek is something we also on The Daily Beast. We've got something we call extra insight. And with every article we also give you additional material that you can go to, to get online and it's a great little additional tool.
BROWNIt's a little bit like a kind of footnote in a research paper where we have at the bottom in yellow, you know, extra insight, you know, for more about this read this book or for more about this go to The Daily Beast and find it here or, you know, for more about this, look at this video clip and I think it's a fantastic way to enrich material and I think, you know, all of us feel in this era where there's so much fantastic information available we would love to be guided to the key things that enrich the things we read and hear and see.
REHMHere's, we've had several e-mails, critical, of Niall Ferguson, wondering if Tina will try to lure Fareed Zakaria back to the magazine?
BROWNWell, I'm a huge fan of Niall Ferguson. I think he's a very provocative and swash-buckling and brilliant mind so I'm very happy with Niall. I think that Fareed is very happy where he's moved to because it dovetails with his CNN TV show. So, you know, that's the decision that he made. I think he was a great talent. I love him to have stayed, but, you know, that transpired before I arrived, but there's plenty of great talent out there and they're all going to be lured to Newsweek.
BROWNI mean, we now have, as from today, you know, Andrew Sullivan joining The Daily Beast and he will be writing for Newsweek, so, you know, there's a lot of talent out there that's going to be coming to Newsweek and we have much there already, but there's much more that's going to come.
HARMANBy the way, if people disagree with Niall Ferguson, that may well include me. That speaks to the health of the magazine. We're not there to present Sidney's point of view, Tina's point of view. We're there to present thoughtful, informed, cognitive point of view.
REHMAll right. To Orleans, Mass. Good morning Dana.
DANAGood morning. You know, you just hit on my point and I would have respectfully disagree. It just seems like Newsweek, you know, for all its branding as liberal by the right wing, which I'll never understand, all it seems to have, consistently have the point of view of apologists for the status quo. Whether it's corporate or the elites in the government, so, you know, whether, you know, what's the difference between Niall Ferguson and Fareed Zakaria.
DANAThey're both apologists for what I would call U.S. Empire. I mean, where are the descending viewpoints like, you know, where is the left in Newsweek? I'm saying it should be a total left wing magazine, no, no. But those views are never represented. It's like you've cut off the left half of the seesaw and all you've got is the center and the right.
BROWNWell, I don't think that's right. I think we have a big mix of opinions there. We have Jonathan Alter still writing for the magazine, who -- you know, I don't think any of our writers actually want to be called liberal or, you know, the reverse. I think they feel that they're independent minds who will write what they think when they think it.
BROWNYou know, no one could call Chris Dickey, you know, a sort of vaunting Republican, I think, in his foreign affairs coverage. So Les Gelb, you know, who's been writing for us on foreign affairs, I mean, he is certainly no one would call a vaunting Republican, so I think that maybe you just haven't really been reading the magazine perhaps with the same kind of attentiveness as the editor.
HARMANAnd how in the world could you make that observation if you read Niall Ferguson on President Obama?
REHMWhat did he say?
HARMANWell, he disagreed totally with the Obama approach. How he blew it, said Niall Ferguson, in Egypt. How is that a protection of the establishment?
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Carol, who's in Bethesda, Md. Good morning, you're on the air. Carol, are you there? I guess she's not. Let's go to Boone, N.C. and to Jennifer.
JENNIFERHi, I'd like to express my disappointment with the new format of Newsweek. My partner holds our household subscription and I think we've got like, you know, two years left on a three-year subscription and I'm finding the new format to really be dumbed down. There seem to be a lot of sort of news bites, photographs with captions, couple of issues in a row had two solid pages of write-up on Charlie Sheen, while other major events received a couple pages of photographs with some captions. It does feel like it's really been dumbed and the format is trying to appeal to popular culture and to people with short attention spans.
REHMDumbed down. Tina?
BROWNI think that is totally incorrect. The issue that you're talking about with Charlie Sheen also had a tremendously good foreign coverage in it. We've had writers such as the great travel writer Paul Thurough, the brilliant national book award winner, Simon Winchester. Every issue now we've an increasingly intellectual caliber of the magazine far different frankly from what you're saying.
BROWNWe had a piece on Charlie Sheen, but who was it written by? It was written by the acclaimed the novelist Bret Easton Ellis, where he analyzed what it is that the media, why are the media obsessed with Charlie Sheen and how Charlie Sheen, what he represents in today's culture. It was a brilliant piece, as a matter of fact, of social (word?), which went, you know, far above anything anyone else has tried to say on the subject, but we are in the mix of the world.
BROWNThe point about Newsweek today is we are actually right in this host-modern mix of high and low culture, which exists around us at all times. But what we are is smart about. So, you know, the fact that you might have some shorter pieces with captions, Newsweek always had that by the way, in its periscope section. We simply have a very lively short bit section at the front, but the rest of the magazine is, you know, is full of very, very intelligent material written by top writers, academics and intellectuals.
HARMANAnd we're eager and hungry to hear points of view such as yours. We don't expect everybody to applaud everything we're doing. We'll learn from listening to stuff such as you all.
REHMAnd here's last question for you, Sid Harman, from Larry in Pineville, N.C. He says, "Sid Harman is 92 and he looks maybe 60 something. How does he do it?"
HARMANCan you keep a secret, Larry? Because if you tell me that you can, I'm going to explain that, dammit, is what I'm doing.
REHMYou are staying in such good shape.
HARMANWell, Newsweek feeds that. That engagement with active, meaningful people and process is without question.
REHMSo it's both emotional, intellectual, physical, you've also got this other new venture, The Academy of Polymathic Study out at the University of Southern California?
HARMANThat's another hour. I will tell you, in an interview recently, somebody asked me what did I want on my tombstone. My answer was still curious.
REHMAll these years. Dr. Sidney Harman, he's executive chairmen of the Newsweek, Daily Beast Company. Tina Brown, she's editor-in-chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Thank you both so much.
HARMANThank you, Diane.
BROWNThank you, Diane.
REHMGood to have you with us. Thanks for listening, all, I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth and Sarah Ashworth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our e-mail address is drshow.org and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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