In which the Observer profiles my editor, Jon Meacham, and previews the new Newsweek:
Next Monday, Newsweek will scrap the template that it has used for 76 years and replace it with a rethinking of the magazine. It will essentially be a monthly that publishes every week. It will be less slick, more weighty, unpretentious, a little boxy—like Mr. Meacham. It will be sent out to fewer but more serious people, and it is meant to appeal to a newly refined audience. The dark, bold, crowded Watergate-chasing, Richard Nixon-excoriating, Vietnam-corresponding, Wallenda tottering, jet-scrambling headlines and text that filled its pages for decades will be scaled down and replaced, in some parts, by a placid, graceful font used in a women’s magazine.
And it’s Mr. Meacham, the wonky, professorial editor who spends his summer days thinking about Andrew Jackson, Franklin and Winston, who is building a news-idea magazine for the Age of Obama. Unlike Time editor Rick Stengel, who plays host to lavish yearly parties where he’s shoulder-to-shoulder with Oprah Winfrey and Jimmy Fallon, Mr. Meacham has seen that the next moment in journalism, the next moment in Washington, won’t be about celebrity. It’s about a certain youthful, confident, hyperstylized, beautifully packaged wonkiness. It will have to have its accessible, pop side. But it will be a very sophisticated kind of pop. Intellectually credible and focus-group-approved. Straightforwardness as interpreted by edgy design firms…
The new magazine is loaded with style. The magazine will be consolidated into four sections: Scope (formerly periscope) for news squibs in the front-of-the-book; The Take will be its section for columnists; Features (which is tagged “the first rough draft of history”); and “The Culture.” The back page will be called “The Back Page.” It’s stripped down. Instead of a screaming banner running across the cover, now it’s condensed and tighter, and the banner floats at the top of the magazine in a red box. The palettes are softer and more elegant. New fonts are used in the magazine, including Archer, a signature font of the most un-Newsweek of all magazines: Martha Stewart Living. Cerebral and direct, unsnarky and anti-ironic, with cool hues and fonts to match.
“It’s so beautiful and open and a very modern serif font,” said Bonnie Siegler, the founder of Number 17, the design firm Mr. Meacham hired to redesign the magazine, speaking about the use of Archer in the magazine. Ms. Siegler has worked with two magazines previously: with Kurt Andersen for Colors, and with Kim France and James Truman for the launch of Lucky.
“We wanted to modernize it,” she said of the redesign. “We wanted to bring it into this century, sort of.”