The Newsweek staff did a Reddit AMA today. Jim Impoco, editor-in-chief, Kira Bindrim, managing editor, Alex Leo, head of product for IBT Media, Grant Burningham, homepage editor and Kate Gardiner, director of audience engagement, were all taking questions on a wide range of themes.
If you take away anything, it should be that Impoco has a way with words — in that he uses very, very few. And that the new team is excited about their product, the state of the media, serious journalism and are willing to defend it against cynical redditors.
Herewith, some highlights:
On The ‘New Regime’ of Newsweek
Leo: New approach is all about serious investigation, giving the reader real context (something missing at many news orgs) and having the best/last word not necessarily the first.
Impoco: It’s no longer a smart take on last week’s news. We prefer deeper dives into the important stories of the day…Investigative journalism is us — we’ve got some of the best in the business.
Bindrim: We can’t be Newsweek without accepting the connotations that name already has for people, and we would be remiss to ignore the magazine’s history. That history is a big part of why so many of us are excited about being a part of this relaunch. But neither do we want to pretend that this isn’t in fact a relaunch. We hear critiques of what Newsweek was or is every day, and it would be silly of us to take over a publication without also taking the opportunity to address some of those critiques. It’s why we like talking to readers, and why a forum like this one is valuable….I’m sure Newsweek’s past editorial leadership had reasons for choosing the covers or coverage they did, and it’s true that Jim and the rest of us can’t speak to those decisions. All we can say is that we’re listening to the feedback and making sure our current strategy takes it into consideration.
On Info-tainment, Buzzfeed, and Justin Bieber:
Bindrim: This always feels to me like asking about the difference between great literature and Twilight, or great films and Michael Bay. People are always going to want entertainment, and info-tainment is certainly a byproduct of that. I think as a news outlet, you have to find a balance, and every outlet is going to have different standards. For us, the goal is to never sacrifice quality for clicks….I do think news outlets have an obligation to present the most important news, and I think it’s safe to say Bieber isn’t that. But Americans also have a lot of options: Reuters, Al Jazeera, BBC and others all have the Ukraine in prominent positions on the homepage right now. The real news is out there if you can tear yourself away from the Biebs.
Impoco: Buzzfeed’s cool. There’s a place for them. And a place for us. Ben Smith kind of rocks.
Burningham: … I think people are a lot more responsible for the state of the media than they are ready to admit. There’s plenty of good, hard-hitting journalism in the world. Consumers have a responsibility to support it, just as we have a responsibility to make it.
Leo: We have done zero Hilton or Bieber stories since we took over on October 1. We do, however, make fun of them in our Conventional Wisdom Watch.
On How to Make It In Media:
Bindrim: Read EVERYTHING.
Leo: Start writing (even if its for your high school paper or your own blog). Be mindful of your digital presence (aka tweet like your mom is watching). Go to local events for journalists/media/tech folks. Read everything you can (while still maintaining a life. Life is important.) Ask local reporters you admire out for coffee (I mentor and was mentored, most people are happy to help)
Gardiner: Social media was my way in. It’s the best possible tool for networking, clips and more. Twitter is your best friend.
Impoco: Write, write, write.
On the Success of Magazines and Good Journalism
Bindrim: Accuracy is paramount in good journalism, and we always endeavor to present information clearly and accurately to our readers. I think there will always be debate about what constitutes “absolute truth” — especially on controversial topics — but it’s our job to get as close to that truth as possible.
Leo: If we do native advertising I can promise you that it will be marked as such. We are not here to shill for anyone or to lie to our readers. We all take our editorial standards very seriously.
Impoco: The challenge is to take on the big, important topics but find a way to make them compelling to readers — this is why magazines are still around. They’re good a storytelling.
Gardiner: We believe in waiting ’til the facts come in; we only even RT breaking news after three sources have confirmed.
On How Much Time ‘Sucks':
Impoco: Oh, we’re all diplomats here. You tell us please.
You can follow the new staff at @Newsweek.