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Who Will Be the Next Editor of Newsweek?

A shortlist — Isaacson? Zakaria? Weisberg? Colbert? — of potential candidates to replace Meacham

The Washington Post announced on Monday an agreement to sell Newsweek, its 77-year-old money-losing magazine, to Sidney Harman, a 91-year-old audio equipment tycoon. Jon Meacham, Newsweek’s editor, concurrently announced that he will leave the magazine after a new editor is named.

Below, a shortlist of possible Meacham replacements, and the odds – completely and utterly subjective – they’ll be hired.

Walter Isaacson
President and CEO, Aspen Institute; former editor, Time magazine
Rationale: Isaacson, former Time magazine editor, CNN chief and current president of the Aspen Institute — where Harman is a board member — should be, on paper, the favorite to at least get an offer. The question is, would Isaacson even want to return to the magazine industry? “I read magazine content online,” Isaacson said during a panel at the Magazine Innovation Summit in 2009. “I don’t feel the need to subscribe to them.”
Odds: Even

Fareed Zakaria
Editor, Newsweek International and CNN host
Rationale: If Harman opts to replace Meacham from within, Zakaria — Newsweek international editor who is seen by some as Meacham’s no. 2 — would be the top choice. It will be interesting to see if Zakaria opts to stay at Newsweek, or goes his own way before a Meacham replacement is chosen.
Odds: 5 to 1

Jacob Weisberg
Editor, Slate Group
Rationale: As editor of the Washington Post-owned Slate, Weisberg would be my personal choice. If you think about it, Slate is sort of what Newsweek is trying to become – a timely "thought leader" not necessarily shackled to the 24-7 news cycle. And Weisberg is no stranger to the magazine world, having served on numerous industry panels and Magazine Publishers of America committees. Not only that – his wife, Deborah Needleman, founding editor of Condé Nast’s Domino, is the newly-minted EIC for WSJ., the Wall Street Journal glossy. Problem is, Newsweek is essentially in print, and headed in the opposite direction. Besides, I’d imagine WaPo Co. chief Don Graham would make it pretty difficult on anyone to jump ship now.
Odds: 10 to 1

Arianna Huffington
Founder, Huffington Post
Rationale: Huffington would be a great choice – and voice – for a magazine that's already been accused of having a liberal bent. That is, if she wasn’t already busy building what she sees as her “Internet newspaper.” And, for whatever reason, Huffington has always struck me as a print person. Nonetheless, she’s a longshot fit here.
Odds: 25 to 1

Someone From The Economist
Newsweek modeled its reinvention and redesign after the Economist, one of the few newsweeklies to buck the category’s downward spiral. So it would make sense for Newsweek to go after talent from a magazine Meacham is reportedly "infatuated" with. Perhaps the money Harman saved on buying the magazine (the debt-assuming deal is said to be similar to TV Guide’s $1 sale to OpenGate Capital in 2008) he can spend luring U.K. talent. John Micklethwait, the Economist’s current editor and former U.S. edition editor, would figure to be the primary target across the pond.
Odds: 10 to 1

Adam Moss
Editor, New York magazine
Rationale: Whenever there’s a high profile editorial vacancy in the magazine industry, Moss’ name usually comes up. And Moss has proven why at New York magazine, winning a slew of National Magazine Awards. But Moss doesn’t strike me as politically-motivated, which is, of course, an overwhelmingly critical part of the gig. (Can you imagine Moss being forced to honor an appearance on Don Imus’ radio show? I can’t.)
Odds: 100 to 1

David Remnick
Editor, The New Yorker
Rationale: Like Moss, Remnick’s a proven commodity, with a consistently great magazine and a rack of Ellies to prove it. Unlike Moss, Remnick is entrenched in the political arena, and the opportunity to turn around a title like Newsweek comes once in a lifetime. But like Graham and Weisberg, I would imagine the Newhouse Family doing everything in their power to not let Remnick escape.
Odds: 50 to 1

Stephen Colbert
Host, The Colbert Report
Rationale: Before you dismiss the notion of Colbert as an editor of Newsweek, consider this: Colbert was the editor of Newsweek. In 2009, he began his guest editor’s note like this: “When Jon Meacham asked me to guest-edit Newsweek, I jumped at the chance, particularly because my guest editorship at Mature Honeys fell through.”
Odds: 100 to 1

Barack Obama
President of the United States
Rationale: Another candidate that – while unlikely, given his current position as editor-, err, commander-in-chief  – shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. After all, Obama is already, technically speaking, an editor-at-large, having penned a cover story on Haiti for Newsweek in January. And the right would probably trade an Obama in the White House for Obama covering the White House … O.K., fine, you can dismiss it.
Odds: 44,000,000 to 1

Piers Morgan
Judge, "America’s Got Talent"
Rationale: Perhaps Morgan can structure his contract with NBC and CNN to allow him time to top-edit a weekly newsmagazine while judging America’s Got Talent and CNN’s 9 p.m. hour.
Odds: 1,000,000 to 1

Associated Content
Content farm acquired by Yahoo in May for $100 million
Rationale: Just kidding!