One of my favorite publications, the century-old New Republic, died today:
There was a telling moment at the New Republic’s centennial celebration last month in the stately Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. New CEO Guy Vidra, recently appointed by owner (and Facebook co-founder) Chris Hughes, took the podium to discuss the magazine’s challenges and opportunities in a digital age, just as any modern-day media mogul would do. When he referenced the name of The New Republic’s top editor, however, he mispronounced it: “Frank FOY-er,” he said.
[Thursday] afternoon, a shower of memos sprung from New Republic e-mail accounts, announcing a significant shakeup, as first reported by Politico’s Dylan Byers: Foer was out as editor-in-chief, to be replaced by Gabriel Snyder of Bloomberg Media, and formerly editor of Atlantic Wire and Gawker. In his memo, Vidra wrote of his new top editor, “He is committed – as am I – to The New Republic’s mission of impact, influence and persuasion, but understands that fulfilling that mission in today’s media landscape requires new forms,” reads the memo. “He truly reflects the ‘straddle generation’ of journalists and editors who remain deeply rooted in the qualities of traditional journalism – having worked with brands such as the New York Observer and The Atlantic – but also understands what it takes to create content that will travel across all platforms. We believe he is the right person to help us to maintain the core DNA of The New Republic, while propelling us forward to the 21st century.”
This morning, the excrement hit the ventilator as 30 editors and writers resigned:
The resignations were prompted by Thursday's big shakeup. Longtime editor Franklin Foer and literary editor Leon Wieseltier each announced that they were leaving their posts amid some sweeping changes at the century-old magazine.
On Friday morning, ahead of a scheduled 10 a.m. ET staff meeting, 10 contributing editors, including New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait and The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, submitted their resignations to Hughes.
"Dear Mr. Hughes, We are contributing editors of the New Republic, and our commitment to
the venerable principles of the magazine requires us now to resign," they wrote. "
Please remove our names from the masthead."
Lizza later tweeted a list of further resignations, which included senior editors such as Jonathan Cohn, Julia Ioffe and Alec MacGillis.
Julia Ioffe, whose reporting on Ukraine was unparalleled, posted on Facebook:
The narrative you're going to see Chris and Guy put out there is that I and the rest of my colleagues who quit today were dinosaurs, who think that the Internet is scary and that Buzzfeed is a slur. Don't believe them. The staff at TNR has always been faithful to the magazine's founding mission to experiment, and nowhere have I been so encouraged to do so. There was no opposition in the editorial ranks to expanding TNR's web presence, to innovating digitally. Many were even board for going monthly. We're not afraid of change. We have always embraced it.
As for the health of long-form journalism, well, the pieces that often did the best online were the deeply reported, carefully edited and fact-checked, and beautifully written. Those were the pieces that got the most clicks.
Also, TNR's digital media editor Hillary Kelly resigned today. From her honeymoon. In Africa. Consider that.
But enough polemics about the cowardly, hostile way Frank and Leon and the rest of us were treated. We've done some incredible work in the last 2.5 years and I'm proud of every day I ever worked there. I loved The New Republic, and, more than that, I love my colleagues. They are exceptional, earth-movingly good people. I will miss working with them every day.
So, since everyone I read at New Republic has quit, there's really no more need for me to subscribe.
This is a sad day in American journalism. Hughes' destruction of the magazine reminds me of Ecclesiastes: "Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child."
Update: Former TNR writer Andrew Sullivan has more.