OLD Media Moves

Back in 1984, BusinessWeek needed to change

August 30, 2012

Posted by Chris Roush

The new book from Steve Shepard, the editor of BusinessWeek magazine from 1984 to 2005 and now the dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, is excerpted in this week’s issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, and Shepard writes about the magazine when he took over.

Shepard writes, “Business journalism had fully emerged from the media backwaters, and I was lucky enough to have a front-row seat at some of the great events of our time. With a strong wind filling its sails, Businessweek flourished both editorially and financially. We produced more than 1,000 issues on my watch, some 100,000 stories of varying length, and well over 10 million words. At its peak, the magazine topped 1.2 million in worldwide circulation, and it had built a formidable journalistic machine. With nearly 250 people on the editorial staff, we had more foreign correspondents than Newsweek and a larger Washington bureau than Time. By my estimate, we took in more than $6 billion in revenue and earned at least $1 billion in operating profit during my 20-year tenure — making Businessweek one of the most lucrative magazines in the world.

“Back in 1984, however, I knew only that Businessweek had to change.

“I wanted my first issue to be special, a shot heard ’round the media world. I chose a story for the cover that was already in the works. Two years earlier, two management consultants, Tom Peters and Bob Waterman, had published a book called In Search of Excellence. It analyzed why some companies were excellent performers, including such stars as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Levi Strauss, and Disney, as well as newcomers such as Atari. It even codified the attributes of their success into eight principles. The book became the best-selling management bible of all time, and several companies printed the eight principles on flash cards for their managers to memorize. Businessweek did not review the book when it was published in 1982 because Young had encouraged Peters and Waterman to write it, sharing ideas with them. The book was dedicated to Lew, and he rightly wanted to avoid any conflict of interest.”

Read more here.

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