Recently, we’ve been following the uproar/upheavals/mass resignations at the venerable New Republic after a new owner made himself editor-in-chief.
We took an interest because abruptly fired editor Leon Wieseltier (see“Reflections on the cult of unanimity”) had begun to speak out against scientism and Darwin’s dittoheads.
Probably not what got him fired; more likely that was just one of many acts of treason against dittohead consensus in an age when diversity means diversity of everything except opinion.
Anyway, the New Yorker offers an inside take:
While Clinton, Ginsburg, and Marsalis provided a dignified glamour to the proceedings, it was the contrasting addresses of the magazine’s owner and editors that provided the drama. Hughes talked about radical—but unspecified—change, while Foer celebrated the magazine’s intellectual heritage. Wieseltier responded to Hughes with a message about stewardship. “We are not only disruptors and incubators and accelerators,” he said, seemingly mocking the language that Hughes and Vidra often used. “We are also stewards and guardians and trustees.” He went on,“The questions that we must ask ourselves, and that our historians and our children will ask of us, are these: How will what we create compare with what we inherited? Will we add to our tradition or will we subtract from it? Will we enrich it or will we deplete it?”
Hughes tried to contain the damage. As rumors of a second wave of departures circulated, Hughes and Snyder offered several members of the remaining editorial staff one- to two-thousand-dollar bonuses, and in an op-ed for the Washington Post Hughes tried to explain his vision for the magazine. He told me, “I could have done a better job, at times, of making sure that the editorial staff knew that when we talked about experimentation, innovation, it wasn’t to come at the cost of the things that made us special.”
For many longtime friends of T.N.R., the contrition was too late. This week, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had delivered the toast to the magazine on its hundredth anniversary, sent a private note to one of the departing editors telling him that she had cancelled her subscription.
View from O’Leary for News: In addition to the inherent fragility of thinkmags, the Internet has so fragmented and downsized the cost of “thinkmagging” that a venerable institution like TNR is vulnerable to becoming a millionaire’s toy.
One factor that prevented such mags from reaching toy status in the past was the unique service they provided. “It doesn’t just chatter, it thinks!” Today, it could be duplicated, mixed and matched, and riffed on for free at a dozens of Web sites, if reader interest continues.
Obviously, quality sites must be supported financially, but such sites do not face many traditional publishing costs. We play in a different field. We will watch developments with interest.
Note: Evolution News & Views’s David Klinghoffer had an interesting take:
I identify with TNR’s ex-staff, too, in a more fundamental way. In the evolution controversy, it’s supporters of intelligent design who stand for ideas (disagree with us or not) and idealism. We’ve paid a heavy price for that. No one has ever gone into the field of ID in search of career security. By contrast, whatever the merits of Darwinian theory as science, its advocates often seem to be a cynical lot, too comfortable in the role of bully, short on respect for ideas and debate, more interested in punishing and silencing than in arguing.
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