Newsweek Turns to Tina Tricks: Meet Guest Editor … Stephen Colbert!
By John Koblin
June 2, 2009 | 7:29 p.m
In the two weeks since Newsweek has redesigned, the magazine’s editors have sent out a statement that they intend to sever any and all connection to the turgid, dusty newsweekly of yore. And Jon Meacham, the magazine’s editor, is trying to recapture that age-old magazine editor’s trick for his newly conceived book: buzz.
For the next issue that hits newsstands on June 8, Comedy Central funnyman Stephen Colbert will be Newsweek’s guest editor, The Observer has learned.
Mr. Meacham said the idea was born from a lunch he had with Mr. Colbert at Gabriel’s near Columbus Circle.
“I was just very impressed with the range of his knowledge and he had an almost encyclopedic feel for anything that came up,” said Mr. Meacham. “As we think about ways to both inform and surprise readers of the magazine, the notion of having him as a guest editor seemed like a good one.”
It’s the first guest editor for Newsweek in its 76-year history.
The magazine’s conceit for this issue was born out of Mr. Meacham and Mr. Colbert’s meeting that day.
Mr. Colbert said that the “conventional wisdom” of his earnest, super-conservative Comedy Central character will be peppered throughout the issue, which will include an essay he will write, but that much of the content in the magazine will be treated with the utmost seriousness.
“We had input into what the stories are going to be," Mr. Colbert said
Mr. Colbert will help design the cover of the magazine, he’ll write an editor’s note and he’ll be adding annotations to Mr. Meacham’s weekly editor’s note. Mr. Colbert said that he helped hand out assignments, and will play around with columnist’s biographies and help pick out pull quotes for stories. There will be a section dedicated to all the unpublished letters to the editor Mr. Colbert has written to Newsweek since he was a kid.
In the past, guest editorships have had famously mixed results. In 1995, Tina Brown tapped Roseanne to guest-edit a feminism issue for The New Yorker. In protest, New Yorker writer Ian Frazier quit the magazine, and the whole incident has long been ridiculed as a naked publicity stunt and a low moment in the Brown–New Yorker era. One critic includes Ms. Brown herself, who told The Observer in 2007 that it was a useless enterprise and that “[Guest editors] don’t know how to get it right, any more than I would know how to commission a bunch of songs.”