A história oral da primeira grande revista a morrer

O último número da Newsweek dá-nos a primeira tentativa da revista de fazer a sua própria história. Os testemunhos recolhidos nesta história oral dão-nos a conhecer detalhes de bastidores, recordam episódios de como a revista era feita, de como era encarada a concorrência com a Time e de como se transformou no monstro de logística que acabou por levar ao seu encerramento.

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“Peter Goldman should be famous. As the voice of Newsweek from 1962 to 1988—the ace writer at a magazine read by as many as 20 million people each week—Goldman authored more than a hundred cover stories: assassination, race, politics, war. Friday after Friday he would pace the halls at 444 Madison Avenue, head lowered and bow tie undone, scouring thick files of reporting for nuggets of news and color to enliven the exquisite narratives that would spring from his Underwood Standard, fully formed, just in time for each Saturday close. Goldman may have done more to explain America to itself, week in and week out, than any other journalist of his generation.

And yet there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of him.

The reason is simple. Come Sunday, Goldman wouldn’t sprint to the set of Meet the Press. He didn’t tweet or Tumblr or Instagram. For the first eight years of his reign, he didn’t even have a byline. He wasn’this own brand, as every young journalist is required to be these days. And that’s exactly how he liked it.

So did Newsweek. At its best, Newsweek has always been about “the team game”: a bygone form of group journalism that’s less concerned with big-name bylines than with big, cooperative storytelling; a collective endeavor that aspires to serve the readers, not the egos of the journalists they’re paying to read.

Whenever news broke—JFK, civil rights, Vietnam, Watergate, Diana, Monica, 9/11, bin Laden—the vast Newsweek apparatus would thrum to life. Reporting would flow into Manhattan from dozens of bureaus around the world; writers would hammer it into shape. Editors would revise, art and photo would design and illustrate, researchers would check, makeup would arrange, copy would polish, and production would usher it all out the door, usually at warp speed.

Goldman was not the exception; he was the rule. Culture editor Jack Kroll; graphics designer Karl Gude; production chief Ignacio Kleva; photo editor Guy Cooper; copy maven Tita Gillespie—each played the Team Game, as did thousands of others. Few got famous doing it.

For that reason alone, group journalism is unlikely to come roaring back anytime soon. It’s far too cumbersome, and not nearly profitable enough, for most 21st-century media companies to countenance. But its serious, unselfish spirit is worth celebrating, and the pages of Newsweek’s final print issue seem like the right place to do it.

What follows, then, is the first behind-the-scenes oral history of the magazine, which has been compiled from dozens of original interviews and a handful of published memoirs (including Lynn Povich’s The Good Girls Revolt, Oz Elliott’sThe World of Oz, and Ed Kosner’s It’s News to Me).

The sex. The money. The booze. And all the fine work that a bunch of team players somehow managed to turn out together, in their spare time.

Henry Hubbard, congressional correspondent (1959–85): I started atNewsweek as a science writer in 1959, before the Grahams bought it. It was the land of the living dead.

Osborn “Oz” Elliott, editor (1961–76)Newsweek was a shambles. The whole staff was shot through with drunks, incompetents, and hacks. The basic offering was a bland and unexciting rehash of the week’s events. And while Newsweekwas started as an alternative to Time, its managers never really considered it a competitor.

Hubbard: But once the Grahams came in, in 1961, it was night and day.

Elliott: Phil Graham loosened the purse strings on every front, enabling me, editorially, to hire competitively. The money that Graham made available prompted us all to think big. [As Graham put it in a 1963 speech to Newsweek’s foreign correspondents,] “I revel in the recitation of the daily and weekly grist of journalism. Much of it, of course, is pure chaff. But no one yet has been able to produce wheat without chaff … And not even such garrulous romantics are Fidel Castro or such transcendent spirits as Abraham Lincoln can produce a history which does not rest on a foundation of tedium and detail—and even sheer drudgery. So let us drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of a history that will never be completed about a world we can never understand.”

One of Elliott’s most important early hires was Goldman, then “a 29-year-old reporter/rewriteman for the old St. Louis Globe-Democrat” who was “hungry to move up from Double-A ball to the big league.” In the summer of 1962, Goldman flew from Missouri to Manhattan and finagled an audition. He was tasked with writing a “200-line takeout on some obscure D.C. policy debate.” 

Peter Goldman, writer (1962–88): I was due back in St. Louis on Friday, so Thursday was my last day, and I’d only written a couple of paragraphs when Bill Roeder, the Newsmaker writer, invited me out for lunch.

We had a bite and a couple of drinks, so I had a light buzz going when I got back to my desk and my Underwood Standard. I’d hacked out another paragraph or two when Joe Carter, then the Nation editor, loomed in my doorway and said, “Let’s go across the street for a drink.”

“Across the street,” as it turned out, meant the bar at the old (and now long departed) New Weston Hotel, a favored Newsweek watering hole on the far side of Madison Avenue. We ordered drinks, a martini for him, a Jack and water for me. Carter never quite said he wanted to hire me; instead, he asked, “What would you do if I came to you at the end of three months and said you hadn’t worked out?”

“I’m young,” I said. “I’d find a job somewhere.” You could still realistically say that in olden times.

Joe waved for a second round, and by the time we got back to the office, I was well beyond buzzed; I was still trying to get my fingers on the right keys when Gordo appeared in my cubicle and said, “Let’s go across the street for a drink.”

By this time, Gus, the bartender at the New Weston, would’ve been within his rights to 86 me, but a drink appeared, and after a swallow or two, I got seriously brave about negotiating a price. Gordon wanted to hire me for the Guild minimum, then $10,400 a year. That was nearly $4,000 more than I was making in St. Louis, but I said it wasn’t enough. Gordon upped the ante to $11,500. I took another swallow or two and said I wanted moving expenses, too. He said OK. We had another drink to seal the deal and headed back to 444 [Madison Ave, Newsweek’s offices].

When we got upstairs, I looked in on Carter and said, “Sir, I’ve got a start on that takeout, but I’m not sure I’m in shape to write it.”

“Forget it,” he said. “We don’t need it. Welcome aboard.”

Continua aqui.

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