Chris Hughes responds to accusations that he killed The New Republic:
At the heart of the conflict of the past few days is a divergent view on how the New Republic — and journalism more broadly — will survive. In one view, it is a “public trust” and not a business. It is something greater than a commercial enterprise, ineffable, an ideal that cannot be touched. Financially, it would be a charity. There is much experimentation in nonprofit journalism – ProPublica and the Texas Tribune are proving the model — and that may be the right path for certain institutions. At the New Republic, I believe we owe it to ourselves and to this institution to aim to become a sustainable business and not position ourselves to rely on the largesse of an unpredictable few. Our success is not guaranteed, but I think it’s critical to try.
For anyone who loves what makes the New Republic special — the valuable journalism that pours forth on its digital and print pages — and believes there ought to be more outlets committed to quality journalism rather than fewer, the current choice is clear: Either walk away mourning a certain death or set to work building its future. That means we have to embrace some change.
So, if that's what he sees as the heart of the conflict, and if he really believes the journalistic heavyweights who fled his bracing changes, then it's hard to see how this gets resolved. Writing in the same Washington Post as Hughes, journalist Dana Milbank corrects Hughes' mistakes:
Hughes is no idiot (he reads Balzac in French), but as a businessman he turned out to be a lost boy. When he took over in 2012, he fired the magazine’s business staff, hiring instead a Harvard friend with no media experience. He had no interest in the work needed to woo advertisers. He redesigned the website himself; it looked good but didn’t work well. He tried to eliminate landline phones, seeing no reason why reporters might need them. And his spending spree caused annual losses to swell from $1 million when he bought the struggling magazine (he was its fifth owner in a decade) to $5 million.
While his mistakes are excusable, his childish impatience is not. After David Bradley bought the Atlantic in 1999 he made plenty of mistakes – but he kept the long view and ultimately made that grand old institution a leader in digital innovation. By contrast, Hughes became bored with journalism, occupying himself with the latest phones and the prospect of creating new apps; his visits to Washington headquarters became infrequent. He announced a “New Republic Fund” to invest in “early-stage technology companies.”
The final blow: bringing in former Yahoo News general manager Guy Vidra (who once worked on the business staff of the Post) to be CEO, a man dedicated to “re-imagining TNR as a vertically integrated digital media company.”
Megan McArdle and Lucia Moses also have thoughts about Hughes, none particularly flattering.
I'm much more interested in where the former TNR editors wind up than continuing with TNR. But I'll keep reading it for the next few weeks, just to see. It may not be entirely dead yet; it may just be pining for the fjords.