The sale of Newsweek amid serious financial losses raises an interesting question about the newsweekly — namely, how did that commitment to having its writers and correspondents become regular talking heads work out for it?
Newsweek had a cooperative relationship with MSNBC, turning writers like Howard Fineman and Jonathan Alter into fixtures on the network. Yet while those regular gigs probably helped with book sales for the writers (Richard Wolffe, who left Newsweek, being another), there’s scant evidence the exposure did anything to boost the magazine.
For some time print outlets and newspapers have been wrestling with the value of such appearances, including Tribune’s attempts to leverage its publications, like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, in concert with its TV stations. And while there are doubtless some advantages in that synergy, it’s equally clear that seeing Fineman or Alter pontificate didn’t send TV viewers rushing out to buy Newsweek.
If nothing else, it’s something to think about for journalists the next time someone asks you to put a tie and schlep over to a TV studio. Is it really serving the interests of your publication? And is the value to you worth the price of a new tie?