An Associated Press dispatch on the Washington Post Company putting Newsweek up for sale paraphrases the chairman of the Washington Post Co., Donald Graham, as saying, that he "hopes a buyer with more resources will be able to get the magazine back to profitability."
More resources? The Washington Post Company has a market capitalization of about $4.6 billion, cash on hand of $862 million, and pays a $9 a share annual dividend, according to Yahoo! Finance. The company's directors include, in Warren Buffett and Melinda French Gates, representatives of two of the two richest families in America. How much "more" resources would be required to get Newsweek to profitability, and don't you kind of think that if it were possible to do at a reasonable return on investment, Donald Graham would have already done it?
Newsweek's editor, Jon Meacham, has always been personally gracious to me. He's reportedly trying to put together a group of buyers, and I wish him the best of luck. He's had some excellent content in the magazine, including his own cover story on Michael Bloomberg and a memorable package on military chaplains. But he's fighting an uphill battle against a kind of snarky "conventional wisdom" that is the magazine's voice and that carries with it a kind of contempt for the magazine's own readers. One example: the magazine's "We read it so you don't have to" feature that summarizes books, introduced with the claim: "You just don't have the time. We get it, and we're here to help. Give us five minutes, and we'll give you the whole book—the big ideas, the best bits, the buzziest details. And you'll get hours of your life back." If readers had approached Mr. Meacham's own biography of Andrew Jackson with that attitude, it might not have been the bestselling Pulitzer Prize winner that it was.