Newsweek’s Scramble to Scoop Time

Time Staff Writer

Newsweek may be behind in its circulation and ad war with Time, but Newsweek editor Maynard Parker is gloating that his magazine was ahead of Time Inc.'s entire stable of publications on one of the hottest business stories of the year: the pending merger of Time Inc. with Warner Communications Inc., an $18-billion deal that would create America’s largest media and entertainment conglomerate.

Newsweek’s staff was preparing to put the current issue to bed when the story broke on Saturday, Parker said. But because they had kept up with the ongoing merger rumors, “when the first flash came over the ticker at 2 or 2:30 on Saturday, we were ready to roll.”

“Obviously, we weren’t scooped by our own competitor,” said Edward Adler, spokesman for Time Inc., which owns, among other enterprises, a huge assortment of popular and special interest magazines as well as a book publishing division, cable television companies and the Home Box Office programming corporation.

“Historically, when there’s big news about Time Inc. . . . it is covered in the ‘Editor’s Notes’ or ‘Publisher’s Notes’ columns” of the various publications, he said.


So, while Newsweek slipped the story into its current issue--dated March 13--Time Inc.'s coverage will start with the March 20 edition of People. The company’s other major periodicals--from Time, Life, Fortune and Money to Sports Illustrated--will follow suit as they are published, Adler said.

“I think any news magazine worth its salt has to publish what is certainly one of the biggest business stories of the week,” Parker countered. “To ignore the story seems to me to be short changing your reader.”

In covering the story, Newsweek--which last year had an average worldwide base circulation of about 4 million to Time’s 5.6 million, and $242 million in advertising revenues compared to Time’s $336.6 million--couldn’t resist a few easy shots.

“The deal raises intriguing issues in the corporate office, like how Time’s publications will review Warner films,” the article states. “Magazines will also lose their traditional place as the flagship and ‘soul’ of the 66-year-old company,” the story continues. With the merger, Time becomes “a television company--period,” the editor of the trade publication Channels observes.


“That’s not true at all,” Adler said. “Warner doesn’t have magazines, per se, and we’re not going to change the way we run ours because of this.”

Unaffected by Merger

Time Inc. staffers have been assured that the magazine divisions will be unaffected by the merger, Adler said, quoting from a memo written by Time Chairman and Chief Executive Officer J. Richard Munro: “The traditional integrity and independence of Time Inc.'s journalistic voice will be a cornerstone of Time Warner Inc. And that voice will continue to make a difference to America and the world.”

As for the matter of reviewing Warner films, he said: “For years Time magazine and People magazine have reviewed (Home Box Office) product. Sometimes they praise it and sometimes they pan it. . . . They’re under no orders what to write about HBO and they certainly wouldn’t be about Warner product.”

With the merger, Newsweek’s Parker expects “magazines will play less of a role than they once did (at Time Inc.).” But he doesn’t foresee any lessening of competition between the two publications.

Meanwhile, while Newsweek took the lead in reporting the merger, Lester Bernstein--a former Newsweek editor who once wrote for Time--presaged the event in a well-timed cover story on Feb. 26 for the New York Times magazine.

Without detailing merger possibilities, he analyzed Time Inc.'s prospects in the era of “megatakeovers,” and pointed to some apparent ironies regarding Time’s place in the current market.

For Time founder Henry Luce, journalism always came first, Bernstein writes, citing Luce’s well-known dictum that in his empire, there would be an absolute line separating the “church” of journalism from the “state” of the publishing business.


So Luce often resisted diversification, Bernstein writes. “Once he scornfully rejected a deal to buy a movie studio, something for which the company now hungers. If he had to invest in leisure, he jeered in his memo of rejection, he might consider horse and dog racing ‘but I would exclude the service of anesthetizing people by TV.’ ”

Merger or not, Time Inc.'s magazines seem to have lost track of the “higher calling” founder Henry Luce envisioned, he writes. “Magazines like People, the most profitable in the world . . . are journalistic voices whose independence is largely irrelevant. And even Time, the venerable flagship of the corporation, is now part of a national chorus of daily papers and newsweeklies in which its once brassy voice is harder to distinguish.”

Louis J. Slovinsky, vice president of corporate communications for Time Inc., dismissed the former Newsweek editor’s comments. “You have to consider where the author is coming from,” he said.

Reason Plans a New Era

Robert Poole, editor and publisher of Reason magazine, thinks his publication, which has trumpeted a laissez-faire credo for 20 years, is entitled to at least a little credit for the climate of merger mania that deregulation has helped engender.

But Reason, which moved from the backwater bliss of Santa Barbara to Santa Monica in 1986 to increase its visibility, is still working to build clout and thereby advance its libertarian ideals, Poole said.

To an extent, achieving that goal will depend on who replaces current editor-in-chief Marty Zupan, who’s moving on to a new job at the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University in Virginia.

The competition has been whittled down to five contenders, Poole said: the magazine’s associate editor; the vice president of the libertarian-oriented Cato Institute in Washington; a fellow at the Hoover Institute; another at a Washington think tank, and a journalist with “a big-city Western newspaper.”


What he’s looking for, Poole said, is someone with “a vision for the magazine for the next 10 years. We want to put Reason more into the mainstream of the discussion of ideas in this country. We’d like to have Reason be as much of a participant as the New Republic and National Review.”

With that in mind, he asked candidates to complete “long written exercises,” spelling out what the magazine’s goals should be, and addressing tricky issues such as abortion, Central America and nuclear weapons.

“The approach I’m looking for is more along the lines of the way New Republic deals with issues--create a large tent and allow a number of acts to go on within that tent,” he said. Editorial content would naturally “allow for individual liberty, free enterprise and limited government.” But it wouldn’t “necessarily adhere to a rigid party line.”

To gain the sort of influence it covets, Reason will have to double its circulation, from the current 30,000 figure--which puts it at “the low end of the think-magazine scale, alongside magazines like the American Spectator,” Poole said.

“There’s a natural audience out there that is not really represented by any of the other think magazines. It’s the people who are economically conservative, and socially liberal or tolerant,” he said.

Even with the 60,000 to 70,000 circulation that Poole envisions, the nonprofit Reason would still be a pipsqueak among the giant magazines of which megamergers are made.

But Poole has no qualms about the trend toward the big getting bigger. Lawmakers such as Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, who has asked the Justice Department to look into the antitrust implications of the Time-Warner merger, are guilty of “typical political meddling,” he said. “This small-minded populism is a terrible barrier to American firms and what they’re up against on a global scale.”

Liberal fears about the concentration of media power in fewer and fewer corporate hands are unfounded, Poole believes.

“I don’t think the hands are that few,” he added. “When you have as open a market as we have, with people able to start community newspapers and the diversity of radio stations, I don’t think there’s any problem with viewpoints getting expressed. . . .”

Marriage East and West

The constitution of the Soviet Union “guarantees that the state will bear responsibility for the well-being of the family,” Woman’s Day magazine reported last October, in an article accompanying a survey distributed simultaneously to women in the Soviet Union and the United States.

Responding to the 17-question survey were 200,000 Russians and 30,000 Americans. But judging from the results, families are in trouble regardless of where they reside, or who is responsible for their well-being.

Among the findings, to be published in a future issue of Woman’s Day:

--65% of the women in both countries responded “no” to the question, “Would you like a daughter of yours to repeat your life experiences?”

--79% of Soviet women and 43% of American women said alcohol was a major cause of divorce.

Given the opportunity to complete the phrase, “A good husband should be,” with three of 16 choices, Soviet women voted for “faithful” and “a good head of the family” (56% each), while manliness came in third with 27% of the vote.

On the other hand, 73% of American women want a husband who is “communicative " and 72% want one who is “emotionally supportive.” “Faithfulness” came in third at 63%.

Eighty-eight percent of American women don’t feel that society adequately values the work they do at home, as compared to 45% of urban and 29% of rural Soviet women.

As a press release on the survey points out: “28% of the Soviet women, who have had state-financed day care for decades, believe their salvation lies in more consumer goods while a comparable 24% of American women, who have had consumer goods for decades, believe their salvation lies in day care centers!”