Tunku Varadarajan is stepping down as the editor of Newsweek Global, three months into its experiment as an all-digital publication.
Varadarajan had been the editor of Newsweek International, a post he inherited from Fareed Zakaria, who left after The Washington Post Co. sold the magazine to stereo magnate Sidney Harman. When the newsweekly prepared to discontinue its print edition this past fall, NewsBeast editor in chief Tina Brown tapped Varadarajan to edit the magazine's tablet successor.
Justine Rosenthal, whom Brown had named NewsBeast editorial director at that same time, will take over for Varadarajan on April 19, Brown wrote in a memo.
"It is with sadness that I announce that Tunku Varadarajan, our editor of Newsweek, is leaving us in a month's time," Brown wrote. "Tunku wishes to move on to a new phase in his life. He wants to write a book; to spend time in India (a country he left when he was 16, and which he wants to get to know again); to travel with his wife and terrific young son (who is 13); and to teach at university (which, with journalism, has been his competing passion all along). We can all agree that he has done a stellar job as editor of the all-digital Newsweek, bringing the magazine so smartly into its new, exciting lease-of-life phase with his counterintuitive ideas, terrific cadre of writers week-after-week and the editorial collegiality that has made him such a pleasure to work with."
Varadarajan had a distinguished pedigree, having served Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and The Times of London. He was, at least on the outset, a staunch defender of Newsweek amid much naysaying about its future after its Daily Beast merger, tweeting in 2011, "Contrary to some overheated punditry (and tweeting), Newsweek is NOT in the doldrums. It's still the best American weekly newsmag. Period." A year later, the title would announce it was folding its print edition, having suffered millions of dollars in losses. Without a print magazine to produce, the magazine has shed a considerable number of staffers, including editorial director Mark Miller and Abigail Pesta, who directed women's news.
Since going forward as a tablet edition, Newsweek has tried to stay in the conversation and embrace its digital future, making a splash with a cover story by Tom Wolfe and then running flashy animated covers. Without a physical presence and existing on the free Web only as a channel on the Beast, though, it remains to be seen if Newsweek will be able to stay in the on- and offline conversation. Asked about subscriptions to Newsweek Global, a company rep said only that the title has transitioned "hundreds of thousands from print to digital." Time will tell if those subscribers renew.
As for the Beast, Brown continues to focus her attention on the site that she founded in 2008, naming ex-Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau and faith advisor Joshua DuBois to her columnist roster.
Time, meanwhile, also had a shakeup in its international side, with veteran reporter Bobby Ghosh replacing Jim Frederick as international editor. Today's announcement was made by newly minted Time Inc. editor in chief Martha Nelson and Time m.e. Rick Stengel. The pair said that Frederick has wanted to return to book writing and work on some startup ideas. Frederick, who ends a 16-year career at Time Inc., will continue to be associated with the magazine as a contributing editor.