Newsweek’s having a week

From all indications, Newsweek is exhibiting a death rattle this week.

On Wednesday, it retracted its story from earlier this week suggesting that “bots” took down Sen. Al Franken.

I won’t bother with all the things that were wrong with the story — I’ve already done that here — but it wasn’t pretty.

The initial report was based on research conducted by Unhack The Vote, a group examining outside influence in U.S. elections and politics.

It alleged that a “decidedly alt-right” botnet “weaponized” anti-Franken stories and amplified pressure on Franken to resign after allegations of sexual misconduct. Newsweek was unable to independently verify their claims after a further review of their work.

Newsweek regrets the error.

From all indications, the editorial process is in flames at the magazine, making it fairly predictable that an embarassingly sourced story would make it past an editorial review.

Earlier this month, the company fired editor-in-chief Bob Roe and executive editor Kenneth Li and reporter Celeste Katz because they were working on an expose of Newsweek and its connections to Olivet University and a Korean pastor whom Mother Jones had previously reported had “said that media companies affiliated with the Community are part of a new Noah’s ark designed to save the world from a biblical flood of information.”

But some other reporters took a different route. They took over the story and worked on it outside Newsweek offices until they published it last night, and put this incredible disclaimer at the top of it.

“As we were reporting this story, Newsweek Media Group fired Newsweek Editor Bob Roe, Executive Editor Ken Li and Senior Politics Reporter Celeste Katz for doing their jobs. Reporters Josh Keefe and Josh Saul were targeted for firing before an editor persuaded the company to reverse its decision.

As we continued working on the story, we were asked to take part in a review process which, we ultimately learned, involved egregious breaches of confidentiality and journalism ethics. We believe that subjects of the story were shown parts of the draft, if not the entire piece, prior to publication by a company executive who should not have been involved in the process.

At an on-the-record interview with the subjects of this story, a company official asked editors to identify confidential sources. On-the-record sources were contacted and questioned about their discussions with Newsweek Media Group reporters.

We resisted their efforts to influence the story and, after learning of the review’s ethical failings, the reporters and editors involved in this story felt they would be forced to resign. At that point, a senior Newsweek Media Group executive said the company’s owners would ensure independent review and newsroom autonomy going forward.

This story was written and edited Tuesday, free of interference from company executives.”

The team of journalists standing up for an independent media mulled resigning in protest on Tuesday if the article was not published, Daily Beast reported.

It’s still not clear how much trouble the renegade staffers are in, CNN says. Their story is not featured on the Newsweek home page, although it shows up in a list of “most read” stories. At the top.

  • MrE85

    This story (the one that got the editors and reporters fired) was so remarkable I was initially very reluctant to believe it. I had to check a few more trusted sources (like you) to be sure it was legit.

  • Jerry

    I’m honestly surprised they are still around. The last few years (decades?) have not been kind to weekly magazines.

    • I think they’ve pretty well been eclipsed in relevance by the New Yorker and The Atlantic.

    • chucker1

      The home I grew up in always had a subscripton. I miss how great the issues were in the 80’s and 90’s. Ever since The Washington Post tragically sold it, I stopped reading.

    • Jay T. Berken

      I do not know how the Economist is doing, but I love getting my weekly issue.

  • Rob

    My understanding is that the same company that owns Newsweek also owns or has a big financial stake in Olivet; Olivet was giving away ad space in Newsweek to various interest groups with whom Olivet was trying to curry favor.

  • Carol S.

    I was so excited when Newsweek started publishing again–I read the magazine for years and remember it fondly from my childhood. I felt so grown up when I took out my own subscription after college. I was so disappointed when it went online only. I immediately subscribed again.

    Then in the first issue I received, in a story about Senator Franken (kinda funny now, I guess), they named him as being a Senator from Michigan. I was not impressed with the error. Since then, I’ve kept an eye out for other errors and typos in the magazine, and there hasen’t been an issue that’s gone by without one.

    It’s also REALLY expensive, second only to my subscription for New Scientist, and that comes from the UK. It’s even more than what we pay for The Economist.

    I will continue to subscribe, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it also goes away. Again.