An Impressive Final Act  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   March & april 2011

An Impressive Final Act   

Sidney Harman's effort to resurrect Newsweek. Posted: Wed, April 13, 2011

By Rem Rieder
Rem Rieder (rrieder@ajr.umd.edu) is AJR's editor and senior vice president.      


Sidney Harman always played big.

And that was certainly true of the co-inventor of "hi-fi" in his late-in-life foray into journalism.

Newsweek was sinking fast. Harman, who died Tuesday night at 92, came along and gave it a chance.

The magazine was bleeding serious money, money its owner, the Washington Post Co., could no longer afford to lose. So last summer Harman forked over a dollar, picked up Newsweek's liabilities and embarked on providing a future for the struggling newsweekly.

It was quite a gamble. People had been predicting the demise of the newsweeklies, at least some of them, for years. They lacked a niche. Newspapers years ago had embraced the analytic, put-it-into-perspective articles that were their raison d'tre. There was smart commentary all over the Internet.

Time, the big kahuna of the genre, continues to chug along. But U.S. News & World Report is pretty much gone as a print entity, and Newsweek was both a financial albatross and an artistic disappointment.

What to do? Harman decided to merge his newly acquired symbol of played-out old media with an equally vivid symbol of emerging media: The Daily Beast, an online amalgam of aggregation and original content owned by mogul Barry Diller and presided over by It-Editor-for-Life Tina Brown -- with Brown at the controls of the magazine. (Of course The Daily Beast is also losing tons of money, but whatever.)

Will this marriage last? Will Newsweek rise from the ashes? Who knows?

But give Sidney Harman lots of credit for giving it a shot.

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