“Newsweek” Prepares for Its Final Issue

The venerable weekly reportedly cut 65 staffers in its move to an all-digital format in 2013.

By: Harry Jaffe

The remaining reporters and editors at Newsweek and the Daily Beast are preparing the weekly magazine’s final edition, a year-end double issue scheduled to hit the stands the last week of 2012.

And then it will be over. Newsweek will be no more. The weekly magazine, founded as News Week in 1933, will cease publication.

Tina Brown, founder and editor of the hybrid Newsweek/Daily Beast announced in October that she would quit publishing the print magazine. On Friday Brown sent out notices and called staffers who would no longer be needed, as she takes the news operation all digital.

One of her calls went to Robin Givhan, widely considered to be the best fashion critic in the business and the only one to receive a Pulitzer Prize. Givhan was one of a reported 65 of 270 staffers who were associated primarily with the print magazine.

The damage at Newsweek will essentially wipe out its storied Washington bureau, which produced some of the most renowned journalists of our time, including—to name a few— Ben Bradlee, Robert Samuelson, Evan Thomas, David Martin, Gloria Borger, Howard Fineman, Michael Isikoff, and Tom DeFrank.

And Eleanor Clift, perhaps the last of the vaunted reporting crew still at her post.

“My status is unchanged,” Clift wrote to The Washingtonian. “I remain a contributor to Newsweek/Daily Beast.”

Newsweek’s descent to oblivion was foretold when Post Company chairman Donald Graham sold it in 2010. Graham’s father, Phil, bought it in 1961 and grew it into a powerful, weekly dose of news and commentary that often defined the American and global zeitgeist. Graham dumped Newsweek because he couldn’t figure out how to stem mounting losses.

Eleanor Clift’s relationship to Newsweek describes the new normal at many news organizations. She will add TV gigs on the McLaughlin Group and MSNBC to her contributor status at Newsweek. Salaried staff jobs are more rare. Contributors, often paid on contract or by the piece, are more and more common.

If that’s the case at Newsweek/Daily Beast once it goes all digital in 2013, we are likely to continue seeing the bylines of James Warren, Peter Beinart, and Michael Tomasky as contributors.

Howie Kurtz, the perennially prolific “bureau chief,” will lead the page as a well-paid staffer. Andrew Sullivan, who writes and runs the Dish, is most likely in the same boat.

As for the last double issue, expect a reprise and a final victory lap through Newsweek’s best issues. Editors asked Isikoff, who broke the news about Bill Clinton’s liaison with Monica Lewinsky for Newsweek, to write an essay for the final issue. Isikoff is now the investigative reporter for NBC. Clift is writing a piece on Newsweek’s coverage of the women’s movement.

“There will be retrospective pieces on Newsweek’s pioneering coverage of civil rights and gay rights,” Clift says, “and a look back at some of the most memorable covers, like Magic Johnson announcing he had AIDS, with the cover line: “Even Me.”

And then even Newsweek will cease to be.