Foreign Policy Blogs

The Odd Case of Newsweek

The sale of Newsweek has people in the media industry scratching their heads. Partly because it went to California tycoon Sidney Harman (who has now media experience), and partly because of the numbers behind the deal.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review’s (CJR) analysis of Newsweek’s numbers (courtesy of The Daily Beast), the company was sold for $1 and the assumption of $70 million in debt.

CJR analyzes the oddities even further, though:

Newsweek has just 122 journalists, both print and digital. They make up just more than a third of the magazine’s total employees. We’re not told what the average Newsweek journalist makes, but the average employee there gets $123,000 in salary and benefits.

That’s probably a good number for the journalists, too. If so, its newsroom labor costs it just $15 million. Overall labor is $42 million.

The mag took in $165 million in revenue last year (to look at it one way, that’s $1.4 million per journalist).

The problem, of course, is it spent $222 million and lost $28 million (it benefited from a big pension credit). It costs a lot of money to print and distribute a magazine (not to mention to get subscribers).

But the New York Observer reports that Mr. Harman has no intention of cutting costs on his new venture by cutting staff. The Observer quoted Harman’s pep talk speech to Newsweek staff:

“The people are our primary asset,” he said. “How in the world can you pass up the opportunity to lead an organization like this? I have no thought of investing a great deal of money so I can make a great deal of money. I would be delighted over a period of some years to see Newsweek flourish and getting by on its own generated fuel. Break-even is a serious accomplishment, especially in this world, in the world of journalism.”

No matter how Harman approaches the challenge of making the company profitable, Newsweek’s fate in the coming year will be a media industry object lesson worth watching.



Genevieve Belmaker

Genevieve Belmaker is a freelance journalist and contributing editor with The Epoch Times ( She also contributes to Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists and Her blog on journalism is

Genevieve has traveled throughout the U.S., Asia, Central America, Israel and the West Bank for reporting assignments, including major investigative reports on the recovery of New Orleans, the encroaching presence of China in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the dangerous import of melamine-contaminated milk into the U.S. and settlement outposts in the West Bank. She regularly reports on issues related to journalism, and the work of journalists.

She holds a BA from the University of Southern California in International Relations, and has been a member of several prominent national and international professional media organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the International Women’s Media Foundation, the New York Press Club, and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. She lives in Jerusalem, Israel with her husband and son.

Areas of Focus:
New Media; Journalism; Culture and Society