STOPPING THE LETTERS: Tina Brown hasn’t written one of her regular editor’s letters for Newsweek since July 30. That’s a week after Reuters reported the Harman family, owners of Newsweek, had stopped investing in the magazine and that IAC/InterActiveCorp. was the new sole majority shareholder. That same week Barry Diller suggested the magazine might go all-digital.
Was there a link? She says she’s just been too busy.
This story first appeared in the October 1, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I had to cut something from my to-do list,” she said Friday through a spokesman.
Brown launched the column in January under the banner Periscope, a name that suggested the editor peering out into the world from within the depths of IAC. Though she’d put out her first issue of Newsweek in March 2011, prior to her editor’s letter she’d only used the front-of-the-book sparingly, for housekeeping notes and 200-word thought bubbles.
Reviving a personal column was a signature move. In the past, such missives had brought her much acclaim. Using a pseudonym, she wrote Tatler’s “Rosie Boot’s Guide to London Bachelors,” a Countess Louise J. Esterhazy-style column for Eighties London Sloanes where she gossiped about eligible boys and former boyfriends, like Martin Amis. The column had the conspiratorial tone of a smart, wiser girlfriend. “Do remember girls, all his relationships end badly after six months,” she wrote about Amis.
At Talk, her diary, based on the journal she’d kept since she was a girl, was in-the-know and whip-smart, crackling, as she’d say, with quippy observations and gossip. Her first entry, in September 2001, sold out Russell and Kimora Lee Simmons over a botched photo shoot for the magazine. She also used it to settle scores, at one point mocking the author of an unauthorized biography.
The diary was also something of a parachute, surfacing at the peak of the harshest of media reports about Talk. While the magazine closed in January, the column remained popular, with some at the time speculating that it could inspire a book or transition over to Vanity Fair.
The Newsweek letters lacked the zest of Rosie Boot and the Talk diary. Save for a touching column about her special-needs son, they were pro-forma and heavy on connect-the-dots punditry. Gone were the dishy anecdotes.
They also came after a miserable spate of bad press. It was at least a platform for her to have her say on the magazine, and highlight new features, like, say, a new iPad app.
In the months since the columns stopped, Newsweek has lumbered from one p.r. crisis to the next — Asparagate, the error-ridden Niall Ferguson cover story, “Muslim Rage” — each a perfect opportunity for a written rebuttal from the editor in chief’s pen. But Brown has been silent. For her, the editor’s letter isn’t about looking back.
“I decided only to write it when an issue requires special explanation to readers — like the ‘Mad Men’ issue,” she said.