Tina Brown Excites Staff With Redesign, Still Riding New Newsweek Hype Wave

If there's one word to describe the media news narrative so far in 2011, it's probably "reinvention," or something like it, what with all of the relaunches, redesigns and restructuring, from AOL and the Huffington Post to Gawker, the New York Times (plus Magazine), New York Observer and Tina Brown's Newsweek and The Daily Beast hybrid. The latter is the subject of even more speculation today, with the magazine she's remaking preparing to drop maybe as soon as Monday (or maybe later). But while Gawker, HuffPo and the Times have thrived recently or otherwise maintained next-level relevance, earning the breathless analysis of their switch-ups, Brown has revitalized Newsweek, at least in certain conversation circles, through the sheer power of her leadership presence and celebrity, based not at all on any editorial product. Let's talk more about it inside Press Clips, our daily media round-up.

Team Tina: Yahoo's The Cutline blog has a detailed feature today about the new Newsweek, after Brown used a Wednesday meeting to show off the fresh product to the entire staff.

"It's not your Grandpa Jon's magazine anymore," said one anonymous staffer, probably meant as a "none-too-subtle dig at departed editor Jon Meacham." Under Meacham, mostly following the sale of the weekly magazine by the Washington Post Company to billionaire Sidney Harman, Newsweek hemorrhaged writers and editors, adding insult to years of injury, i.e. losing millions of dollars. Jokes about the waiting room at a doctor's office aside, when was the last time anyone cared about Newsweek in a serious, watch-their-every-move way?

All of that has changed in the weeks since Brown waltzed in with a plan, including:

...longer stories (presumably to free up room for some of the feature writers Brown has lured into the fold); bigger pictures; more space for columnists in the front; a graphic-heavy culture section called Omnivore that will include a weekly books spread; and a section called NewsBeast that will incorporate content from Newsweek's online sister operation.

But all of the coverage given thus far by the media covering the media (us included) is based solely on hype, and the hype based solely on Brown, whose hires have been impressive, but whose charm and pedigree were probably enough on their own. With (not entirely successful) stints at Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Talk, Brown is as close to magazine royalty as exists these days and that, combined with the whispers that she's selling neo-Newsweek as "Vanity Fair meets The New Yorker," is enough to inject the struggling magazine into a dialogue that has long gone on without it. (A Daily Beast spokesperson told us, "Tina has never said Newsweek will be "Vanity Fair meets The New Yorker," that is not her positioning of the magazine.")

But there's even excitement in the building, according to Yahoo:

"It's slick, contemporary and feels like something out of the new millennium--sort of New York mag meets GQ, and pretty distinct from Time, with big photo spreads, graphics that pop and draw you into the page, lots of entry points into a story, infographics, sidebars, etc." ... "Everybody left feeling very energized and enthusiastic," said another attendee. "She really got everyone very excited."

What might eventually be disheartening, though, is that the anticipation could far outweigh the attention when the actual magazine -- fresh and new as it may be -- finally comes out.

On Alert at ABC News: Suspicious white powder was spotted in a pile on someone's desk at the New York offices of ABC News. The NYPD responded only to find that it was instant soup mix. More on your local news at 11, probably.

Twitter News Gone Wrong: Michael Arrington, the sometimes smug boss behind TechCrunch, was all too happy to wag his finger today at the Financial Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, who all misreported a story about a JPMorgan fund's plan to buy into Twitter. Arrington says he had the story right all along, but the major outlets merely wrote new stories, refusing to acknowledge their missteps:

I know why these guys didn't update. Because it's embarrassing to get facts wrong and if you have to update, correct, or retract it's seen as a weakness and you can lose reader trust.

It's exactly the opposite. Admitting you were wrong isn't a weakness.

Preachy as he may seem, he's right.

Weirdos Win: Capital New York, meanwhile, has a fascinating interview with Buck Wolf, AOL's Weird News Desk senior correspondent. There's no question that as blogs like Gawker and the Huffington Post have grown, spreading to a national, not necessarily New York-specific audience, News of the World-style wacky stories -- the type that thrive on social news sites like Reddit, Digg and Fark -- have become a huge part of aggregation on the web. A bank robbery, for instance, is far more likely to go viral if the culprit is dressed like a grandpa. AOL's Wolf is sort of the Wizard of this online Oz.

Tips, tips, tips to:

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]


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