It's been almost exactly a year since Nisid Hajari became foreign editor of Newsweek magazine. He was previously managing editor of Newsweek International. It's been an eventful year for foreign news - Iraq, Iran, Burma and much, much more - so he's been pretty busy. Just this week, the magazine ran a provocative cover on Pakistan.
He answered five quick questions from SAJAforum. His detailed bio is below the Q&A. On a side note, with Bobby Ghosh being named world editor of Time (and succeeding Romesh Ratnesar, who's on book leave), South Asians continue to be foreign editors of the two top U.S. newsweeklies (see Ghosh's Q&A).
SAJAforum.org: Congrats on surviving your first year as foreign editor. Can you explain how this job differs from being managing editor of Newsweek International. Those outside the magazine may not quite understand the roles of each and how the new role is a promotion within Newsweek.
HAJARI: Thanks very much. The confusion is understandable: At Newsweek International, I helped Fareed Zakaria run the magazine. That meant managing a staff of senior editors, approving layouts and covers, dealing with budget and advertising issues, and so on. But Newsweek International is a smaller entity than Newsweek--the one has a worldwide English-language circulation of around 750,000; the other has an American circulation of over 3 million. Moving over to "Domestic" means that I'm responsible for our coverage of the most urgent global stories-- the war in Iraq, the nuclear programs in North
Korea and Iran, the war on terror, and so on. Those stories appear in the international edition, sometimes in slightly different form, but are usually produced by the U.S. edition.
SAJAforum.org: What were you most proud of from your last five years at Newsweek International?
HAJARI: At risk of sounding immodest, I feel like under Fareed we've really reshaped Newsweek International into a forward-looking magazine of ideas, something that marries the depth of a monthly to the immediacy and visual richness of a weekly. Part of this has to do with the magazine's audience--
Newsweek is more of a niche publication overseas, appealing to local elites, so the international edition can afford to be a bit more highbrow. But part also has to do with the ever-dwindling resources that all international publications have suffered in the last few years. We've managed to make that a virtue--it's forced us to sharpen stories earlier in the editorial process, to look for smart outside writers to complement our amazing correspondents, to use the best available photojournalism. The magazine today feels more incisive, cohesive, and visually appealing than it did four years ago, in my humble opinion. But I say "we" intentionally: this was truly a group effort involving everyone from our production staff to our tireless bureau chiefs, editors, art directors and photo editors.
SAJAforum.org: How much do you have to fight to get a story like
this week's Pakistan story onto the cover? Can you walk us through
that? I am sure there was a Britney story you had to compete with.
HAJARI: Actually, in this case, Newsweek's editor Jon Meacham was the loudest voice arguing to put Pakistan on the cover. That's not necessarily going to happen every week, of course. But when we have a story like this, which is grounded in original, pathbreaking reporting and which illuminates an issue of critical importance to Americans, I've encountered very little resistance to getting it on the cover. If you look back over the last year, I think we've averaged at least one "foreign" cover a month. And, I think, Britney's only been on the cover one time.
[SAJAforum note: Watch Jon Meacham describe the cover process in this video.]
SAJAforum.org: You have been both a writer/reporter and an editor.
Can you outline the charms and challenges of each, and why you chose
the editor path?
HAJARI: Like most editors, I'm not sure I chose the path so much as evolved into it. I still love writing and would like to spend more time doing it. I don't think anything you do as an editor can be as personally satisfying as an original, well-written work. But all but a very few lucky writers in the newsweekly field are subject to the whims of the head office.
As an editor, you have much more control over the shape of the final product, which has almost as much to do with presentation as the words themselves. And these days, with the Web and daily newspapers constantly eating away at traditional newsmagazine turf, your ability to sharpen ideas into pieces that push the story forward in smart, counterintuitive ways is more important than ever. Done right, both positions give you the chance to learn constantly, which is perhaps their greatest charm.
SAJAforum.org: Please give some tips for young journalists who want to go into magazine journalism.
HAJARI: Follow your passion, as cheesy as that sounds. I've worked at a couple different kinds of magazines (the Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, TIME), and while they have similarities they are not
interchangeable. You'll do your best work if you're passionate about the subject matter. And don't worry so much at first about the prestige of the publication. The key is to gain clips and experience. My years in Hong Kong for TIME allowed me to grow and take on responsibilities I might not have been given if I had stayed in New York. And (something that's too often underestimated in the NY magazine world) they were just plain fun.
ABOUT NISID HAJARI
Nisid Hajari was named Foreign Editor of Newsweek in October 2006. In that position he edits and directs coverage of international news for the magazine, including Al Qaeda as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Previous to that he served as Managing Editor of Newsweek International for four years, overseeing the overseas edition of the magazine. He joined the magazine in February 2001 as Asia Editor. During his tenure, the overseas edition won several editorial, photo, and design awards, including one for General Excellence for the 2001 Asia Special Issue, "East Meets West" which he top-edited.
Before coming to Newsweek, Hajari had worked for a variety of publications. As associate editor for Time Asia in Hong Kong, Hajari received his first two General Excellence Awards for the "Time 100: Asians of the Century" special issue and for "An Asian Journey: From Sapporo to Surabaya." Prior to that position, Hajari was a staff writer for Time Asia and Time International in New York. Hajari also worked as a staff writer for Entertainment Weekly and an editorial assistant for the Village Voice.
Hajari holds a B.A. in English from Princeton University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.