The first days were distinctly unpromising. Most of the boldface bylines and star writers who defined the brand had flown the Newsweek coop by the time the deal was done. There was no executive editor at Newsweek, no news editor, no managing editor, no features editor, no Washington bureau chief, no “back of the book” department still standing. Advertisers had peeled off, too, in droves. Where once Newsweek had been housed in its own building, its proud logo in the eye-line of its swaggering competitor in the Time-Life Building, it was now lurking in an office labyrinth near Wall Street reminiscent of the Stasi headquarters in East Berlin. The watchful eyes of the remaining Newsweek personnel who had or had not decided to “take the buy-out” peered from behind pale gray cubicle walls at the jaunty Daily Beast crew, crowded together down the other end. They were separate tribes, segregated as if at a soccer match.
This morose office comedy, however, was soon overpowered by one of the most amazing news cycles in my professional memory: the tectonic Arab Spring, the mind-boggling tsunami in Japan, the operatic killing of bin Laden, and the lynching of Gaddafi. There is no better way to judge the health of a news organization than by how it rises to unscripted examination. And what was gratifying was how our buffeted band of “NewsBeast” writers and editors, women and men who scarcely knew each other, swiftly became a ninja news army, packing as much heat for Newsweek as they did for The Daily Beast.