Granddaughter Anne Alexander has pieced together her grandfather’s drafts and notes on his experiences as the initial founder of Newsweek magazine.
Despite making his name as the founder of one of the seminal American news weeklies, Thomas J.C. Martyn started his career as a former British RAF pilot hired by Time Magazine as a foreign editor. In his often witty and compelling memoir, he writes of having to work nearly seven days a week for his new employer in New York City. Despite his incredible dedication, however, Time Magazine eventually decided to move its offices to Ohio, which meant that Martyn’s recent expensive acquisition of a house in New York for his wife and child would need to be sold, or he would have to leave them behind to keep his job. He decided to stay put in New York. His decision to found Newsweek was based not only on a desire to sustain his family, but out of a fundamental passion for the news and snappy, beautiful copy.
In her introduction, Martyn’s granddaughter Anne Alexander frames the memoir in terms of her “Gpa’s” incredible business acumen and insight into personnel psychology, and it is a fascinating and detailed account of creating a thriving enterprise from essentially nothing. However, Martyn also peppers his account with delightful minutia such as the Time’s editorial staff choices to use “tycoon” instead of “magnate,” partially because it is one letter shorter. He fondly remembers his encounters with Henry Ford and a U.S. President, the latter of whom dresses down Martyn’s competitor Luce with unfeigned vitriol. Structurally, the book is marred at the last minute by tacking on Gpa’s RAF experiences/early life as an afterthought.
Despite the fact that Martyn’s passion for news and writing eventually causes him to lose to a power-hungry board of fast-moving stakeholders, the warmth, passion, and refusal to give up on one’s dreams make this work a memorable and well-written read.