February 17, 1933: Thomas J.C. Martyn, previously foreign editor at Time, releases a new magazine. The new magazine sold for 10¢ an issue and had a yearly subscription rate of $4. The magazine’s first cover featured seven photographs from the previous week’s news displayed under the banner of News-Week. By 1935, a group of prominent US stockholders began financing the magazine. In 1937, the magazine merged with another weekly publication, Today. With that merger came more large names as well as more funding.
In 1937, Malcolm Muir took over the editorship and changed the name to Newsweek. With Muir in control, there was a shift toward more interpretive stories. He introduced signed columns and an international edition. The small magazine grew into one with breaking stories and included analysis and commentary on national and world issues. The magazine was purchased by the Washington Post Company in 1961. Newsweek is the most liberal of the three major newsweeklies in the US (Time and U.S. News & World Report are the other two).
As with any major undertaking, there are controversies. Newsweek held back on the Monica Lewinsky story even though they held information before it broke on the Drudge Report. They printed a story about Guantanamo Bay detainees distraught over desecration of the Qur’an only to retract it after riots broke out. They had not fact-checked and could find no confirmation of the allegations made by an anonymous source. They have periodically listed the ten best public high schools in America based on the Challenge Index – a methodology now under scrutiny. There have been regional editions of the magazine with controversial covers, as well.
Today, Newsweek has a worldwide circulation of more than 4 million. It is published in New York City with 4 English language editions and 12 global editions written in the language of the circulation region. Jon Meacham is in charge of Newsweek’s US editions and Fareed Zakaria holds the reins for the international editions. Bureaus are in several major US cities and ten overseas locations. In 1994, Newsweek came online with Prodigy then moved to America Online in 1996. In 1998, Newsweek.com was launched. In 2000 it merged with NBC, MSNBC.com, and MSNBC. In 2007, it once again became a standalone site.
“For most folks, no news is good news; for the press, good news is not news.” – Gloria Borger
“Journalism largely consists of saying ‘Lord Jones is Dead’ to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive.” – G. K. Chesterton
“But what is the difference between literature and journalism? …Journalism is unreadable and literature is not read. That is all.” – Oscar Wilde
“Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it.” – Russel Lynes
This article first appeared at Examiner.com in 2010. Editor’s update: Newsweek’s last print magazine had a publication date of December 31, 2012. Since 2008, trouble at the magazine has escalated. Revenue dropped 38% between 2007 and 2009. Although it always lagged behind Time magazine both in circulation and revenue, this drop was unsustainable. The Washington Post Company sold to Sidney Harman (92-year-old radio pioneer) for $1 and assumption of debt in August 2010. In November of that year, they merged with The Daily Beast to become The Newsweek Daily Beast Company. Today, they maintain a digital presence called Newsweek Global.
Also on this day: H L Hunley – In 1864, the first successful sinking of a ship by a submarine.
Miles Standish – In 1621, Miles Standish was appointed first commander of Plymouth colony.
Butterfly - In 1904, Madame Butterfly opened in Milan.