Alan Brinkley: On Newsweek's Historical Legacy

Roundup: Historians' Take

A professor of history at Columbia University, Alan Brinkley is the author of The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century.

Magazines come and go, but some are more important than others. Newsweek is one of the important ones. Much of the attention since news broke that the magazine would cease publishing a print version has focused on the career of editor Tina Brown. But the title’s possible demise is also an appropriate moment to remember how significant the magazine itself is.

When Time launched the first “news-magazine” in 1923, it was small and almost unknown—overshadowed by the Literary Digest, the Saturday Evening Post, and many others that withered away after many successful years. Ten years later, not only had Time become a successful magazine, but so had a new rival—News-week. It was launched by Thomas J.C. Martyn, a young man who came home from World War I having lost a leg in combat. Shortly after he returned, he came to work at Time. For a while, he was the highest-paid editor in the company. But when Henry Luce moved the magazine to Cleveland, bringing his editors with him, Martyn refused to go, partly because Luce would not reimburse him for the move. Martyn moved to the New York Times for a few years, until in 1933 he launched News-week (which soon dropped the hyphen)....

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