The Washington Post Co., tired of trying to cap a gusher of financial losses, finally has unloaded Newsweek magazine, and in the process the Graham family made sure it stayed in liberal hands.
Of all the suitors, some conservative, Post Chairman Donald Graham chose Sidney Harman, a billionaire industrialist who gives money to Democrats and who is married to prominent Democratic Rep. Jane Harman of California.
His and her liberal credentials are flawless.
But first, what happened to such an august brand name that, as the Daily Beast reported, the Grahams sold it for one buck? (The Post story on the sale said it was “for undisclosed amount.”)
Of course, the Internet is first to get the blame. When readers can get news bursts on handheld devices in minutes, why go to the trouble of perusing last week’s news in Time or Newsweek?
But there is another force at work—a theme never discussed by the mainstream media in generally glowing stories on the Harmans this week and how they picked up a crumbling piece of journalism for a song.
Newsweek, under outgoing editor Jon Meacham, had lurched to the left in recent years in an effort to capture a niche audience of rich liberals to keep its circulation numbers credible. The shift was noticed by none other than a liberal bedfellow in the pages of its owner, the Washington Post.
In chronicling the decline of Time and Newsweek and profiling their two editors, Post media reporter Howard Kurtz wrote in 2009, “The rival editors are turning out weeklies that are smaller, more serious, more opinionated and, though they are loath to admit it, more liberal. They are pursuing a more elite audience, in print and on the Web, abandoning the old Henry Luce notion of catering to the masses. It is nothing less than a survival strategy.”
Why liberal editors think tailoring news for a shrinking group of elitists will result in profits is a mystery. As Newsweek tried to out race Time in its fawning over Barack Obama, the magazine became so pointless to conservatives they stopped reading it.
“Who reads Newsweek anymore?” asked Fox News Channel analyst Liz Trotta.
Successive Gallup polls have shown Americans who consider themselves “conservative” are a plurality in this country, at 42%. People who call themselves “liberal” is at 20%.
Thus, the business plan for Newsweek and other New York City-Washington D.C. publications, where liberalism abounds, is to cater to that 20% and offend the 42%. Brilliant.
Years ago, conservatives had no other place to go. So they held their noses and read the mainstream media. Today, they have lots of options, from Fox News on TV to The Washington Times in print to HUMAN EVENTS in print and online.
Typifying this liberal-bubble culture were the stories reporting the sale. One mainstream print-online combo labeled the Harmans “centrist Democrats.”
Let’s check the pressure-group ratings for Rep. Harman.
The American Conservative Union, which graded House members on 25 votes concerning taxes and spending, awarded Harman a grand total of 0, read zero, points out of 100. Even hawkish liberal Pete Stark of Californian managed to garner 10 ACU points.
The National Tax Payers Union gave Harman a more respectable 13 points. Not much of a score. Perhaps a few points for style.
Now, look at how major liberal groups judge her voting record. Americans for Democratic Action, long the gold standard for liberals proving they are liberals, awarded her nearly a perfect score of 95 points.
She did even better with the American Federation of State, Country and Municipal Employees. AFSCME lauded her voting record with a perfect 100.
Only the mainstream media can look at those lopsided, anti-conservative, pro-liberal scores, and label Rep. Harman a “centrist”—someone trying to objectively find consensus against right-wingers with axes to grind.
Now for Mr. Harman, who turned 92 Wednesday. Newsweek reporters should know they are now working for a publisher who has washed the Democratic Party in campaign cash.
In 2000, for example, he gave $20,000 to the Democratic National Committee. He gave smaller donations, as the law requires, to Al Gore and Bill Bradley, and a number of House Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi’s Political Action Committee.
In 2008, he backed Hillary Clinton for President, donating $2,300, Federal Election Commission records show.
In other words, neo-publisher Harman is an activist Democrat who will try to resurrect what, with Time, had been the news weeklies of record for decades.
Said Donald Graham, “In seeking a buyer for Newsweek, we wanted someone who feels as strongly as we do about the importance of quality journalism. We found that person in Sidney Harman.”
Harman told the Post, “I do this because I see working hands-on at Newsweek as the culmination of a lifetime career in industry and government and education,” Harman said Monday in an interview. “I see it as both the culmination and synthesis of everything I’ve ever learned … and I find it extraordinarily meaningful to be entrusted with carrying on the legacy of the Graham family.”
That legacy, of course, is a liberal one.
And, whichever reporters he decides can stay will know that when they write stories they better not contribute to the possibility the Democrats may lose the House this year. The boss, and the boss’s wife, won’t like it.