Bozell Column: Newsweek, Still Devolving
There’s something oddly funny about the cluelessness of liberal media companies when their ratings fall or their subscriptions collapse. They just refuse to admit, even consider that the business problem could be (at least in part) their own incessant liberal agitating. Instead, they seem to double down and make things even worse.
ABC’s Sunday show “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” could never beat NBC, so what did the ABC braintrust do? They promoted the Bill Clinton spin artist to an everyday anchor job on “Good Morning America.” Then they doubled down and replaced him with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who is married to another Bill Clinton spin artist, Jamie Rubin. Can it get more insular?
Here’s another case in point: Newsweek’s subscriptions collapsed a couple of years back. How could it not be (at least in part) the umpteen Obama-worshipping cover stories that caused some subscribers to cancel. Then they really abandoned the “News” half of their title and wrote cover stories like “We’re All Socialists Now” and “Is Your Baby Racist?”
Newsweek was put on the market, and the market has spoken: a $1 sale.
Washington Post Company chieftain Don Graham wasn’t going to let the unwashed “rabble” of journalism win this Cracker Jack prize. So he turned away the conservatives at Newsmax magazine, as well as the publishers of the National Enquirer and TV Guide. "In seeking a buyer for Newsweek, we wanted someone who feels as strongly as we do about the importance of quality journalism," Graham said in a statement. That means nobody broke up into laughter in front of him over whether the notion of “quality journalism” is demonstrated by racist-baby exclusives.
Of course, The Washington Post wasn’t going to take that dollar (and unload its obligations) with some conniving Murdoch. They obviously wanted another liberal elitist to take the reins, and so they accepted the bid of Sidney Harman, the husband of Rep. Jane Harman (D.-Calif.). This passed with flying colors for radicals like Katrina VandenHeuvel of The Nation, who hailed him on Twitter as a “decent & longtime liberal.”
Twitter also contained lots of mockery. Jim Geraghty of National Review joked: “Sidney Harman bought Newsweek, the institution, for $4.95 less than the cost of Newsweek, the print edition.” And: “Newsweek's cover story next week is ‘MERCIFUL ATHENA: How Jane Harman balances toughness and tenderness in a dangerous world.’”
Mr. Harman has donated $85,000 to the Democratic National Committee (most recently $25,000 in 2004). He’s also contributed to liberal politicians from Ted Kennedy to Barbara Boxer to Geraldine Ferraro. There’s only one Republican on the list, Scott McInnis of Colorado in 2001.
As for the potential that Harman would do his wife’s bidding, there are occasions where both Harmans contributed to Democrats at the same time, according to federal election records. Both donated to leftist Mark Green on July 9, 1997; to Ellen Tauscher on February 6, 1998; to Max Cleland on June 29, 2001; to Paul Wellstone on August 21, 2002; to Joe Lieberman on March 31, 2003; and to John Kerry on April 16, 2003.
Even without the major conflict of interest that the owner of Newsweek is married to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Harman has liberal-elite credentials. He was president of Friends World College, a “worldwide experimental Quaker” peace college, in the early 1970s. He’s on the board of the Aspen Institute. Harman was an undersecretary of commerce under Jimmy Carter and is a trustee emeritus of the Carter Center and a former board member of the Martin Luther King Center for Social Change.
But the media elite still sold this unconvincingly as one “centrist” selling to another. Mike Allen of Politico relayed that Washington Post Company chieftain Donald Graham “felt comfortable with Harman's centrist politics, and was comforted by the idea of selling to a stalwart of the Washington establishment."
This is the magazine that couldn’t send one greenhorn reporter to the scene of the earthquake in Haiti this year, choosing instead to rely for its “quality journalism” on a cover story written by (and about) President Obama. Two months later, they awarded their cover story to Michelle Obama to publicize her initiative on childhood obesity. With this kind of shilling for the White House, it won’t be at all shocking if Sidney Harman’s Newsweek seems run by a left-wing activist. That would mean the status quo is intact.
But that wouldn’t mean that Newsweek will stop losing money. This ship is still sinking, and the captains have no plans to plug the leaks.