Monday, February 2, 2009

Hidden History of Mort Zuckerman's `U.S. News & World Report'--Part 3

(The following article first appeared in the April 14, 1993 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative weekly, Downtown. See Part 1 and Part 2 of article below.)

At the time Mort Zuckerman purchased U.S. News & World Report Inc. in 1984, its magazine employed 205 people on its editorial staff. More than 10 of these editorial employees ended up becoming instant millionaires as a result of selling their stock in U.S. News & World Report Inc. to Zuckerman in 1984. By October 1984, Zuckerman had moved into the U.S. News & World Report magazine executive offices in Washington, D.C. and began to replace top U.S. News & World Report editorial managers with his own editorial people.

As Fortune magazine noted in an Oct. 14, 1985 article, “Zuckerman bought U.S. News out of his personal real estate fortune in order to call the shots at the magazine;” and one year after his 1984 purchase of U.S. News & World Report, Zuckerman “put himself on the masthead as editor-in-chief”—although he had originally “promised” when he purchased U.S. News & World Report that “he would never be editor-in-chief,” according to the January/Feb. 1993 issue of F.A.I.R.’s Extra! magazine. Zuckerman continued to be the U.S. News & World Report editor-in-chief in the 1990s.

The Oct. 14, 1985 Fortune magazine article also observed that in the U.S. News & World Report editorial offices at that time Zuckerman was “all over the magazine—hiring, suggesting stories, reviewing covers, conferring daily by phone with [then-U.S. News & Report editor Shelby] Coffey, even helping to interview subjects for articles.” Zuckerman also told Fortune magazine in 1985 that “the country is becoming more conservative,” “he is conservative in fiscal matters and defense” and “he supports U.S. policy in Nicaragua and El Salvador.” And in 1992, Zuckerman told New York magazine that “he has devoted two-thirds of his time” to his U.S. News & World Report property since he purchased it. In its Oct. 5, 1992 issue, New York magazine estimated that U.S. News & World Report Owner Zuckerman’s personal worth in the early 1990s was $265 million.

As U.S. News & World Report’s Editor-in-Chief, Zuckerman hasn’t provided much job security for his editorial employees. Between 1984 and 1989, for example, Zuckerman hired and fired “five editors in his first five years” and by 1989 “80 percent of the entire news staff had left” at U.S. News & World Report, according to the January/February 1993 issue of Extra!. The same magazine also noted that “Zuckerman has seemed to use his power of ownership” at U.S. News & World Report “to influence coverage of issues that he had a personal stake in” as when a U.S. News & World Report “story on the decline of California’s real estate market was reportedly scaled down after concerns were raised that the story could cause further harm to…a market that Zuckerman’s development company, Boston Properties, has a sizable stake in.” Extra! also reported that “Under Zuckerman, U.S. News had a contract with a dubious Israeli news service called Depth,” that helped Zuckerman utilize U.S. News & World Report to support Israeli government policies during the 1990s.(end of part 3)

(Downtown 4/14/93)