12:20 pm Oct. 18, 2012
This morning at 11 a.m., Tina Brown convened employees at her Newsweek-Daily Beast mashup for an all-hands town hall-style meeting to discuss this morning's announcement that the Newsweek print edition will cease publication at the end of this year and that the title will go digital-only.
Brown choked up while addressing the staff, said one person who was in attendance, describing her speech as "very forward looking" with a focus on how all publications are moving in the same direction.
Employees were permitted to ask questions about the plan, which involves a transition to a subscription-based digital title called Newsweek Global.
This morning's announcement from Brown included the sad news that layoffs would follow. And unsurprisingly, most of the questions from staff were about the size and scope of the cuts.
"Very somber day," said our source at the meeting.
But before the meeting, news began to emerge of some high-profile staffers jumping ship of their own accord.
Most notably, Peter J. Boyer is leaving for a job as editor-at-large at Fox News, according to Politico's Mike Allen. Boyer, a marquee long-form veteran, left a plum gig at The New Yorker last year to come work for Brown at Newsweek. His surprising move to Fox News makes sense in the context of the January 2011 New Yorker profile he wrote about a Hudson Valley newspaper owned by the network's chairman, Roger Ailes, who was said to have enjoyed the piece.
Additionally, Capital has learned that Rebecca Dana, previously a senior editor at Newsweek and one of the magazine's young stars, left the publication last month to work on a book for Amy Einhorn at Penguin/Putnam. Her first book, a memoir called Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde, is due out from Penguin/Putnman in January and covers her time working for Brown.
The early morning announcement is said to have taken people by surprise.
"This decision is not about the quality of the brand or the journalism—that is as powerful as ever. It is about the challenging economics of print publishing and distribution," Brown and newly installed C.E.O. Baba Shetty wrote in a web posting.
"Exiting print is an extremely difficult moment for all of us who love the romance of print and the unique weekly camaraderie of those hectic hours before the close on Friday night. But as we head for the 80th anniversary of Newsweek next year we must sustain the journalism that gives the magazine its purpose—and embrace the all-digital future."
The fate of the magazine has seemed to be in flux ever since it was put up for sale by its previous owner, The Washington Post Company, in the spring of 2010. Several months later, it was purchased for a dollar by former audio magnate and philanthropist Sidney Harman, who then merged the title with Brown's Daily Beast before passing away at the age of 92 the following April, shortly after Newsweek underwent a sweeping redesign.
Brown's star power and provocative cover choices put Newsweek back in the conversation, though not always for the right reason. But the advertising dollars never caught up with the buzz.
On July 23, the Harman family announced that it was ending its investment in the magazine. Two days later, Barry Diller, chairman of I.A.C., which is Newsweek and The Daily Beast's parent company, seemed to suggest on an earnings call that there was a plan in place to take Newsweek digital-only by the end of the year.
After media reporters publicized the remark, Diller back-pedaled, insisting he was describing the general direction in which the entire news industry was heading. But in light of today's announcement, one could only assume that Diller did in fact let the cat out of the bag a few months too early.
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