All change at US news weeklies

It’s turnover time at some of America’s leading news weeklies.

After almost a quarter of century Richard Smith is giving up the editorship of Newsweek. At the same time the magazine is undergoing a make-over.

Other news weeklies that are undergoing facelifts include Business Week and US News. Meanwhile Time Inc has just closed down its business weekly, Business 2.0.

Even newcomers such as Conde Nast’s Porfolio, which was only launched four months ago is undergoing a review.

Richard – or Rick – Smith is on of the best known news magazine editors in America. He took over the editor’s chair in 1984 and in less than ten years was made chief executive, a rare concentration of power.

He is credited with giving Newsweek, a new flush of vitality in an era when the whole future of news weeklies was in some doubt.

He notably encouraged writers – at a time when news weeklies were fairly flat in their reportage – to develop distinctive voices. That was a time when Columbia Journalism Review ran a controversial cover featuring a dinosaur with the headline ‘Are News Mags As a Species Doomed?” (That cover still hangs prominently in Smith’s office).

Undeterred – or perhaps spurred on by the criticism – he hired writers who made Newsweek less a digest of the week’s news and more a commentary of what was happening. He also expanded the ‘back of the book’– and introduced more features.

Although Newsweek still has a domestic circulation of over three million, it has for some time struggled to maintain ad income which is probably why there are not only big changes at the top, but also a massive reorganization at the other top executive levels, all due to take place by the year’s end.

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