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It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Newsweek. The popular American magazine published an article that shone a not-so-polite light on the ‘zine’s parent company, Newsweek Media Group, which had reportedly been connected to Olivet University.
Shortly after the story hit the press, Newsweek’s editor-in-chief and executive editor were fired, prompting the acting editor-in-chief, several other senior editors and at least two reporters to threaten to quit. Then came a raid on the magazine by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, as well as questions related to ad revenue. Suddenly, the publication accustomed to writing headlines was making headlines… and none of them were very good.
As it turned out, the connection to Olivet was more than a tenuous rumor. Multiple staffers admitted to the press that several company executives were directly connected to the University, and part of the church that founded the school. Still, Newsweek leadership always said there was no direct financial connection between the business of the magazine and the workings of the school or the church. That turned out to be, potentially, less than accurate, leading to a new investigation into the financial connections between the church and the publication.
That led multiple Newsweek staffers to break their silence, saying they needed to offer what they knew, especially when their journalistic ethics were coupled with cooperating with a criminal investigation. Newsrooms need to be independent, they argued, and that meant not toeing the party line, especially when that “line” might include covering up possible illegal activity.
So, stories were published, and Newsweek Media Group co-founder Jonathan Davis was not happy, claiming the stories hurt the company’s business ventures. So, then came the firings, followed by resignations. Now, everyone is wondering what happens next. With much of the editorial leadership gone or angry, and many top reporters having resigned or considering it, where does Newsweek go from here, as both a brand and a working news publication?
That’s the big question everyone is asking, and nobody yet has an answer. From the business side, the executives need the entire company functioning well, and they see the turmoil at the magazine as a detriment to other business. The staff at the publication want to promote journalistic integrity in an era where fewer people trust “the media.”
So, where, exactly, is the meeting point between these two agendas, and how did they get crossways in the first place? These are questions Newsweek’s brass needs to answer quickly and answer well.
About the Author: David Diaz is an entrepreneur and executive with Davenport Laroche.