Sidney Harman on Seeing Newsweek’s Financials for the First Time: ‘Good God!’

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Photo: Kris Connor /Getty Images

Sidney Harman has some harsh words for Newsweek, the magazine he bought earlier this month, and what it's become. "I enjoy reading it," he told the Journal. "But it's a collection of essays. I'm talking about getting behind the story." When asked about his first reaction to the financials of the struggling newsweekly, he said, "How about 'Good God'? Pretty tough stuff. And not just tough in terms of the balance sheet. But the direction, the implications of it." Obviously, the 92-year-old stereo magnate is undaunted by all this and is confident he can turn it all around.

One of Harman's biggest challenges is going to be replacing the top of the masthead — with the departure of editor Jon Meacham and leading internal candidates Evan Thomas, Ted Moncreiff, and Fareed Zakaria, Harman is facing an uphill battle. This is what he says he wants:

It's critically important that we attract the new generation of writers. There are guys out in that field who are really wired in and who are themselves magnets for them. I want an editor who has a fundamental respect for the business aspects of the operation, who doesn't think this is somehow an artistic undertaking totally separate from the real world.

With Zakaria leaving for rival Time, Harman's especially going to want to go in a new direction. Alongside Meacham, Zakaria's voice was one of the most influential in shaping the direction of Newsweek. Now that he's at Time, he's probably the top candidate to replace current managing editor Richard Stengel, who has been editing the news juggernaut since 2006 and may want a new project soon. (Five years being about the average tenure for an editor there in recent decades.)

"Some skeptics have kind of nagged at this stuff. 'Come on, you're no institution builder. You're a businessman,'" Harman told the Journal. "Well, I think I've just become an institution builder."

Harman Ready to Become 'Institution Builder' at Newsweek [WSJ]