Tina Brown says “The Daily Beast” is running just fine – she’ll be focused on making Newsweek work again.
Joining new Newsweek owner Sidney Harman for a spirited interview Sunday with Howard Kurtz (who now works for Brown) on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” Brown said the good news for Newsweek is that they, in essence, just got themselves a great website.
The merger “kind of fixes one issue right from the beginning, where so many print magazines are struggling to think, well, what is their website piece of it going to be? That part of it is fine,” Brown said. “Now I can really focus on turning around Newsweek and bringing this magazine back to its glory.”
So what’s Brown’s Daily Beast getting out of the deal?
“With the adrenaline and news metabolism of The Daily Beast, joining forces with Newsweek's terrificdeep culture of news and quality … the two things are going to animate each other,” Brown said.
Harman, 92 years old but sharp-witted and hard-charging, said the turnaround of the venerated brand “will be difficult. It will be manageable. It will be done.
At one point in the interview, Kurtz noted that Brown seemed to be his “first, second, third, and fourth choice for editor. Why was that?”
“I need hardly tell you, Howard, since you work for her,” Harman replied. “This is an indomitable force. This is the unique talent in journalism, thoroughly established, still gloriously curious, and to use her favorite word, totally ‘animated.’ That's an irresistible combination.”
Harman flinched at the inevitable job-cuts question, but answered candidly: “It is inevitable that if we merge two organizations intelligently, there will be some modification,” Harman said. “I so dislike that emphasis on job cuts. What we're here to do is to produce a stunningly effective combination and to save as many jobs as possible.”
Kurtz also asked how his new team of very hands-on editors and executives would work together.
“I have little concern about how well that teamwork will go,” he said. “And as for hands-on, I can't imagine any one of the three of us not wanting to be thoroughly engaged every hour, every day.”
Brown said editing the Beast got her “used to working with younger writers … who make writing part of the several things that they do in terms of budget.” But she saw no reason she wouldn’t be able to integrate those sensibilities into Newsweek staffers.
“One of the things that I love since having gone over there (Friday), I can already sense the people in the room. There's so many good people there, and I hope to do what I did at the New Yorker,which was really to uncover very often people who have been doing perhaps one thing at Newsweek who could suddenly do something quite different and really thrive.
But by and large, Brown indicated that the two publications would cross-pollinate, as opposed to becoming a single, fused staff.
“There will be new writers and old writers at Newsweek who now have a very thriving digital outfit for their material, and there will be editors who come from print at the Daily Beast who will be able to develop ideas at greater length that can see their way into Newsweek. … so, as I see it, it will be a very much more — it will be as nimble as ever, bringing some of that nimbleness to the print side.”
Though it was Newsweek that Harman bought, he insists his online chops are good enough to keep up with the Daily Beast crowd.
“I spend a great deal of time on the Internet. It's been clogged recently by bulletins and e-mails from my editor-in-chief, but I'll get through that. After all, I think of Newsweek as a national institution. I think of myself as a national treasure. I ought to be able to manage some Internet activity,” he said.
To which Brown replied:
“I have to say, keeping up with Sidney is going to be my issue. This guy is a dynamo, I tell you.”
The feeling is clearly mutual.