Jon Meacham

  • Aired:  05/05/10
  •  | Views: 32,450

Jon Meacham predicts the future of print media as the Washington Post puts Newsweek up for sale. (7:36)

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE )

>> Jon: WELCOME BACK.

BESTSELLING AUTHOR AND EDITOR OF NEWSWEAK MAGAZINE AND COHORT OF

A PROGRAM ON PBS CALLED "NEED TO KNOW." PLEASE WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM, JON MEACHAM.

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE ) COME AND JOIN US.

>> THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

>> Jon: THANKS FOR JOINING US.

>> IT'S BEEN A GREAT DAY.

>> Jon: OH, MAN.

SO THIS IS-- IT HAS BEEN A TERRIBLE DAY IN "NEWSWEEK".

"WASHINGTON POST," THE COMPANY THAT OWNS YOU--

>> SINCE 1961.

>> Jon: SINCE 1961, AND "NEWSWEEK" HAS BEENAND SINCE WHAT, 1933?

>> 1933.

A GOOD YEAR TO BEGIN A BUSINESS ENTERPRISE.

>> Jon: 1933 WAS THE PERFECT TIME.

>> IT TOOK A WHILE TO WORK OUT THAT WAY.

>> Jon: PEOPLE LOVED ROLLING THEM UP AND BURNING THEM FOR HEAT.

HOW DO THEY LET YOU KNOW-- IS THIS DOWN PIPELINE?

DO YOU COME IN NTHE MORNING,

IT'S A TYPICAL DAY, EDITORIAL MEETING AND YOU GET A PHONE

CALL, "HEY, MAN,Y JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, WE'RE SELLING YOU."

>> NO, IT'S NOT QUITE BROADCAST NEWS.

FOUND OUT FAIRLY RECENTLY.

AND THE OWNER, DONALD GRAHAM, A MARVELOUS MAN WHO HAS RUN THE

"WASHINGTON POST" COMPANY, SON OF KATHERINE GRAHAM, PHILLIP GRAHAM.

PHILLIP GRAHAM COINED THE PHRASE, "JOURNALISM IS THE FIRST ROUGH DRAFT OF HISTORY."

>> Jon: AND INVENTED THE TERRIFIC CRACKERS THAT WE ENJOY.

>> AND HE WAS A SELF-A SENATOR FROM TEXAS.

>> Jon: ABSOLUTELY.

>> IF YOU RECALL.

WHEN WE GOT THINGS WRONG,

MRS. GRAHAM WOULD CALL UP AND SAY DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO ROUGH?

THAT WAS A WALL YOU DIDN'T WANT.

IT'S A RATIONAL ECONOMIC DECISION.

WE LIVE IN AN ERA IN WHICH ALL PRINT-BASED MEDIA ARE NOT EXACTLY ROLLING IN CASH, TO SAY THE LEAST.

>> Jon: HERE'S THE THING-- IT'S NOT A "NEWSWEEK" PROBLEM IS WHAT

YOU'RE SUGGESTING.

IT IS A MEDIA PROBLEM.

AND DOESN'T THAT GET US TO THE LARGER ISSUE-- WHO IS GOING TO BE DOING THE REPORTING?

BECAUSE IS IT WE'RE ALL AGIGATOR IF WE'RE ALL COMMENTING, IF

WE'RE ALL ANALYZING, WHO,

EXACTLY, IS GOING TO BE DOING THE REPORTING OR WILL THE AGIGATORS MAKE SO MUCH MONEY

WILL THEY BECOME THE NEW GRAHAMS?

I DON'T SEE A LOT OF AGGREGATEORS BUYING YACHTS YET.

>> Jon: GRAHAM'S GOT A YACHT?

>> NO, NO, I JUST DON'T SEE-- THERE'S NOT A GREAT MODEL-- LET

ME SAY VERY QUICKLY, I DO NOT BELIEVE "NEWSWEEK" IS THE ONLY CATCHER IN THE RYE BETWEEN

DEMOCRACY AND IGNORANCE.

BUT I THINK WE'RE ONE OF THEM,

AND I DON'T THINK THERE ARE THAT MANY ON THE EDGE OF THAT CLIFF.

( APPLAUSE ) WHAT AMERICA HAS-- WHAT AMERICA HAS TO DECIDE --

>> WHAT DO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WANT?

( LAUGHTER ) THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE SMART PEOPLE.

THEY'RE FAIR PEOPLE.

>> WE HAVE TO DECIDE ARE WE READY TO GET WHAT WE PAY FOR?

AND IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO PAY FOR NEWS, THEN YOU'RE GOING TO

GET A DIFFERENT KIND OF NEWS.

>> Jon: YOU KNOW WHO IS MAKING MONEY IN THE MAGAZINE BUSINESS RIGHT NOW WHO DO WHAT YOU DO?

WHO IS A SUCCESSFUL MODEL --

>> THE "ECONOMIST."

>> Jon: WHAT DO THEY DO--

>> THEY'VE BEEN GOING SINCE WALTER BADGER FOUNDED IT, A POLITICAL PHILOSOPHER IN

MID-VICTORIAN YEARS, AND WHICH WAS GOOD FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS WHEN

HE SAID, "WE ARE GOING TO BE THE VOICE OF ENGLAND."

>> Jon: YOU'RE LIKE A PERSONAL WIKIPEDIA.

>> WHICH IS GOING TO BE GOOD BECAUSE I'M LOOKING FOR WORK.

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE )

>> Jon: I'LL GIVE YOU $2 IF YOU CANICALLY ME WHO WALTER BADGEET IS.

>> THEY STILL HAVE THE HELP LINES-- YOU COULD BE THE GUY ON "MILLIONAIRE."

YOU COULD BE PHONE A FRIEND.

>> DO THEY STILL HAVE THAT?

>> Jon: THEY MUST.

FIRST OF ALL, LET ME SAY THIS, I KNOW WHAT A DIFFICULT TIME IT IS IN THE MEDIA WORLD, AND WHAT

REALLY TERRIFIC PEOPLE YOU HAVE IN "NEWSWEEK", AND I'VE MET MANY

OF THEM AND THEY'RE SMART AND INTELLIGENT AND GEORGE WILL IS

AT "NEWSWEEK", AND IF YOU SELLING, I CAN'T NECESSARILY BY

HIM BUT I WOULDN'T MIND RENTING HIM FOR A WEEKEND.

>> HE DOES BIRTHDAY PARTYS.

>> Jon: I'M SORRY FOR THE TROUBLES THAT CAN VGONE ON OVER

THERE AND IT SEEMS YOU'RE CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE, NOT NECESSARILY OF THE IDEA THAT PEOPLE NO

LONGER WANT SOMETHING STANDING BETWEEN IGNORANCE AND DEMOCRACY,

BUT JUST THAT IT FEELS LIKE-- IT'S LIKE THE GUYS IN THE HORSE CARRIAGE INDUSTRY TO SOME EXTENT.

YOU'RE LIKE, IT'S A GOOD PRODUCT BUT IT'S NO LONGER PART OF THE

WORLD NOW THAT PEOPLE CONSUME IN TERMS OF MEDIA.

>> BUT THERE IS WHAT I CALL THE VIRTUAL BELTWAY.

THERE IS AN AUDIENCE THERE.

THEY WATCH YOUR SHOW.

>> Jon: WHAT?

>> I KNOW.

>> KNOW.

THEY DON'T ADMIT IT PROBABLY,

BUT THEY DO.

THEY BY HARDBACKED BOOKS.

THEY READ MORE THAN ONE MAGAZINE.

THEY PROBABLY WATCH ONE OF THE SUNDAY SHOWS.

I MEAN, THEY HAVE TO BE ENGAGEED IN THE NEWS-- PROBABLY ON LINE-- TO WATCH YOUR SHOW BECAUSE YOU

CAN'T UNDER SAPPHIRE OTHERWISE.

>> Jon: DO PEOPLE HAVE THE PATIENCE ANY MORE TO WAIT A WEEK FOR COMMENTARY THAT THEY'RE

ALREADY SUBMERGED IN, IN THE ONLINE COMMUNITY.

>> HERE IS WHAT I SUSPECT THE FUTURE IS.

WE HAVE HAD IT BACK WARD.

WE PRODUCE A MAGAZINE ALL WEEK,

CLOSE IT FRIDAY OR SATURDAY, AND IT BEGINS TO GO ONLINE WHERE THE HEART OF THE OPERATION IS.

BUT TAKING 77 YEARS, THE EMPHASIS HAS BEEN ON THE PRINT.

IT'S PROBABLY TIME TO FLIP THAT IN WHICH YOU ARE SOLELY FOCUSED ON THE DIGITAL, AND BY THE END

OF THE WEEK, YOU TAKE THE BEST OF, AND FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO HOLD A MAGAZINE IN THEIR HANDS--

AND THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO CAN STILL DO THAT-- WHO DON'T JUST DROP IT IN THEIR TAPIOCA, I PROMISE...

( LAUGHTER ) WHO WILL --

>> YOU'RE ALIENATING YOUR DEMOGRAPHIC.

( LAUGHTER )

>> WE BLEW UP THAT BRIDGE A LONG TIME AGO.

THEN YOU GET-- YOU GET THE FOCUS ON THE ADVERTISING AND YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO SAY THESE ARE

PEOPLE-- THESE ARE THE "DAILY SHOW" VIEWERS, BOOK PEOPLE,

INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE WHO LOOK AT THIS CONTENT, NO MATTER WHERE IT IS, WHETHER iPAD, ONLINE, A

MAGAZINE-- AND THIS IS AN AUDIENCE YOU WANT TO REACH, DEAR IT ASER, AND THAT'S TWO-THIRDS

OR MORE OF THE REVENUE.

THIS IS AN EXISTENTIAL CRISE,

AND IT'S NOT JUST BECAUSE I'VE HAD A BAD DAY AND IT'S NOUFT

JUST BECAUSE I FEEL INCREDIBLY STRONGLY THIS THAT THIS MAGAZINE FOR 77 YEARS AND UNTO THIS HOUR,

I BELIEVE, HAS MATTERED TO THE LIFE OF THE COUNTRY, AND IS ONE OF THE VERY FEW COMMON

DENOMINATORS IN A FRAGMENTED WORLD.

WE MAY NOT ALWAYS GET IT RIGHT.

WE MAY SCREW UP.

WE MAY NOT BE WORTH LOOKING AT ONE WEEK OR ANOTHER.

BUT BY AND LARGE, TAKEN ALL IN ALL, I THINK WE WIN MORE THAN WE LOSE.

AND I THINK THE COUNTRY WILL BE POORER FOR OUR DISAPPEARING, AND THE GOOD NEWS, IS WE DID NOT

CLOSE TODAY.

WE WENT UP FOR SALE.

>> Jon: RIGHT

>> AND I'LL BE OVER IN THE MORNING WITH THE PERSPECTIVE.

>> Jon: THANK YOU.

I APPRECIATE YOUR PASSION.

AND LET'S HOPE IT'S NOT EXISTENTIAL.

LET'S HOPE IT'S TRANSITIONAL AND THE SAME THING IN ANOTHER ENVIRONMENT.

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