By Julissa Catalan
Newsweek’s new owners are making headlines outside of their own publication, as questions have arisen concerning the influence their religious beliefs may have on the direction of the once massively circulated magazine.
On Friday, The Guardian published an in-depth story on the lives and backgrounds of Johnathan Davis and Etienne Uzac, the young entrepreneurs whose IBT Media bought Newsweek earlier this year, relaunching the 81-year-old brand on the newsstand.
The new Newsweek recently gained lots of attention with its first cover story, which set out to expose Bitcoin’s supposed creator, Dorian Satoshi Nakamotoexcept that Nakamoto had adamantly denied any involvement with Bitcoin. Newsweek’s editors stand by their story.
The Guardian story and others explore the deep ties between the duo and Olivet Universitya Christian institution in San Francisco founded by South Korean Pastor David Jang. Via an email interview, IBT Media admitted that it has made monetary donations to Olivet. Jang, however, denies he’s an investor in IBT Media.
Davis, 31, IBT’s Chief Content Officer, and Uzac, 30, IBT’s CEO, have said that they funded their business through a Small Business Administration loan and their own personal savings. Each is a 50 percent stakeholder in IBT.
A 2012 story by Christianity Today revealed that Davis once was Director of Journalism at the university, where his wife currently is President. Uzac was the school’s Treasurer at one point and was also listed as a board of trustees member up until last year. His wife, Marion, was the press secretary for the World Evangelical Alliance. Olivet is part of the alliance and Jang is a council member.
The story also reported that IBT “leaders took part in Internet chats with Jang (usually weekly), where the pastor laid out his plans for various business units, like Olivet University and theChristian Post.”
Davis said the Christianity Today article had “so many mistakes.”
“I understand why people ask questions,” he toldThe Guardian. “But I’d also like the journalism to speak for itself.”
IBT has also reportedly recruited employees from Olivet. Dr. Tracy Davis, Johnathan’s wife, says the link is “similar to Google’s relationship with Stanford University.”
The IBT-Jang connection sounds all too familiar to skeptics.
Sun Myung Moon, the late South Korean founder of the Unification Church, also launched a media outletThe Washington Timesin the early 1980s as a method of extending his reach.
Jang has also been said to have once taught at the Unification Church. But Tracy Davis denies this, saying, “Mr. Jang is not part of Reverend Moon’s church.”
IBTraders, a New Yorkbased firm, was once headed by Davis. IBTraders is now located in a building on Whitehall Streetthe same building that houses a private Christian business club that just so happens to be run by the World Olivet Assembly. Jang is the organization’s president.
Davis has also been criticized for a Facebook postsince removedin which he promoted an editorial on ex-gay therapy, a controversial treatment claiming to cure same-gender attraction. Davis referred to it as “shockingly accurate.”
Davis told The Guardian, “I’m not sure how that has any bearing on my capacity here as the founder of the company. I’m not sure how it’s relevant. People believe all sorts of weird things. But from a professional capacity, it’s unrelated.”
On Friday,Newsweek Editor-in-Chief Jim Impoco tweeted: “I’m super proud of the #LGBT coverage in @Newsweek, and grateful for our extraordinarily talented #LGBT staff.”