Meacham on Buying Newsweek: ‘I’m Going to Take a Look at This’

Newsweek is up for sale, and editor Jon Meacham is going to explore the possibility of rounding up some bidders to buy the magazine himself.

“I believe this is an important American institution,” he said in an interview. “I just do. Maybe that’s quixotic, maybe that’s outdated, but it’s what I believe.”

He said he had two voicemails from “two billionaires” after the news was announced this morning that The Washington Post Company was going to try to sell the magazine. He said he had not called them back.

Mr. Meacham won a Pulitzer Prize last year and he has a new TV show that will debut on May 7 on PBS. In other words, he has plenty of options he can explore.

But for now, he said he’s dedicated to figuring out how to save Newsweek.

“We have to figure out what journalism is going to be as the old business model collapses all around us,” said Mr. Meacham. “And I want to be–I want to try to be–a part of that undertaking. Will it work? Who the hell knows. But I’m at least going to look at this.”

“I’m not living in a fantasy 1965 world,” he continued. “This is not a Mad Men romanticism about the news magazine. I’m entirely realistic about our prospects for economic success and the possibilities of finding a consistent audience for our journalism. These are incredibly difficult questions. That said, I believe it is a worth a good long look to see how the Newsweek–call it what you will–platform, big tent, whatever fits into a world that I think needs some common ground. I’m not saying that we’re the only catcher in the rye standing between an informed public and the end of democracy. That’s self-involved. But I defy you to make a compelling argument that the country is going to be better off with fewer places like this.”

Mr. Meacham said he was “very” surprised when he found out from Donald Graham that the magazine was for sale. In 2009, Newsweek lost $28 million. But last year when Newsweek was redesigned and re-conceived (it was given a slicker look to appeal to a smaller audience) it was originally thought that the magazine had about three years to find a way to break even.

Meacham on Buying Newsweek: ‘I’m Going to Take a Look at This’