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Like at a lot of publications, Newsweek was forced to start its week over when the earthquake hit Haiti.

Give the magazine credit for an artful recovery. The Washington Post Co.-owned publication has tapped President Barack Obama to pen a cover story on Haiti for the Jan. 25 issue hitting newsstands on Monday.

Newsweek was readying a story about the Google-China row when the earthquake hit. Editor Jon Meacham scrapped his plans and hit the phones in search of the highest authority he could find to weigh in, according to a person familiar with the matter. He reached David Axelrod, senior adviser to Obama, who asked his boss if he was game.

Getting Obama to write an essay about the Haiti tragedy is a coup for the struggling magazine and aligns squarely with its new strategy. Newsweek lost $25 million in the first half of 2009, and the Post Co. last year reinvented the magazine, cutting its staff and shifting its focus from news reporting to commentary.

The list of contributors on many weeks reads like a who’s who of political operatives and academics weighing in on hot-button issues. The most recent cover story, “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage,” was written by Theodore Olson, who also represented George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore and later became President Bush’s first solicitor general.

Newsweek’s Obama-Haiti issue will hit newsstands a few days before the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of Obama, who’s getting mixed reviews in the polls.