The Washington Post Co. has found a buyer for Newsweek, its money-losing magazine that is stumbling into the digital age: Sidney Harman, the 91-year-old husband of Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice.
Donald Graham, the chairman of the Post Co., chose Harman over two other bidders because he promised to retain most of the staff. Graham is also said to be reassured by Harman's centrist politics, but that won't stop observers from raising questions about the newsweekly's editorial independence.
In a statement sent to the Weekly, Jane Harman promises not to meddle:
“Sidney was quoted recently as saying: 'I don't tell Jane how to vote
and she doesn't tell me how to run my business.' That's our rule and we
stick to it. Of course I am proud of his long and successful career
and believe that Newsweek and its enormously talented workforce will be
in good and caring hands,” said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice).
That won't satisfy Harman's opponent in the November election, Republican Mattie Fein. Fein has penned an open letter to Graham questioning Harman's “troublesome history of interfering with a free press to advance a political agenda.”
That's a reference to Harman's efforts in 2004 to urge the New York Times not to publish its scoop about the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program.
It's also fair to note that Sidney Harman is getting on in years, and absent some declaration otherwise, one assumes that control of the magazine would go to his wife upon his death. That gets us even closer to Silvio Berlusconi territory.