Newsweek grew up as a child of privilege, doted on by the Washington Post Co., which treated it as a brilliant and talented but ne'er-do-well offspring. But then, the Post fell on hard times as readers and advertisers fled to the Internet to chat about their Pilates lessons.
As the Post began trying to adjust to its new circumstances, Newsweek was in danger of winding up on the street. But then, along came Sidney Harman, an elderly Washington billionaire who paid $1 -- less than the cover price of a single copy -- and welcomed the shivering newsmagazine, by now nearing 80, into his family.
Harman teamed up with Barry Diller's IAC/Interactive Corp., publisher of The Daily Beast, an online-only site edited by Tina Brown. But just as Newsweek was getting comfortable in its new surroundings, Harman died.
Harman's widow, Jane, left her seat in Congress and took a job at a think tank, while Uncle Barry and Aunt Tina contemplated the wastrel they had taken in. The Harman family continued sending money, for a little while, but then said enough was enough, it was time for Newsweek to grow up.
A good read
Diller hinted recently that all was not well. Oh, Newsweek was a good read, he said, but the printing and mailing costs were eating him alive. And so it came as no shock when Aunt Tina announced that the Dec. 31 issue of Newsweek will be the last print edition.
What hurt, though, was that she made the announcement on The Daily Beast, under a headline reading "A Turn of the Page for Newsweek." How would you like to read about your own demise somewhere else?
Trying -- though not too hard -- to put a good face on their eviction of the foundling they had taken in, Brown and Diller assured everyone that Newsweek will continue to dwell up in the clouds and will even get a new, longer name -- Newsweek Global.
It will be, Brown assures us, "a single, worldwide edition targeted for a highly mobile, opinion-leading audience who want to learn about world events in a sophisticated context."
Well, Newsweek had a good run. Founded in 1933, it competed fiercely with Time Magazine, summarizing the week's news for millions of readers, each title putting its own spin on the news. Time was conservative, Newsweek liberal.
Somewhere in the dull middle was U.S. News & World Report, which gave up a few years ago and went online-only, where it now spends most of its time reviewing colleges.
It came in the mail!
Believe it or not, folks used to keep an eager, eagle eye on their mailbox -- their real mailbox, not their Gmail -- awaiting the latest edition. It was regarded as a minor miracle to put out an entire magazine that was reasonably up to date, get it into print and push it through the clogged-up Post Office in time for the weekend.
It's still kind of miraculous if you think about it. A lot of technology goes into publishing newspapers and magazines and it is a much harder and more difficult task than slipping some electrons through the router and off into the Internet's slipstream.
Perhaps fittingly, last week's edition of Newsweek featured "Heaven is Real: A Doctor's Experience With the Afterlife," about a doctor who, well, he goes to heaven and comes back, see?
You think maybe Newsweek had an intimation that the end was near?