Yesterday, it was announced that Gabriel Snyder, formerly of Gawker and the Atlantic Wire, will replaceFranklin Foer as editor at The New Republic, the 100-year-old widely respected magazine, and that there are plans to turn the publication into a “vertically integrated digital media company.”
Not long after the news broke, current editor-in-cheif and publisher of TNR, Chris Hughes (also a co-founder of Facebook) was slammed by the media elite.
It’s a perfect example of the long-standing divide between the Silicon Valley mentality of “disrupt everything” and the tradition-heavy New York media scene.
Mass resignations from the magazine (many from contributing editors) were announced via Twitter:
Chait went on to write a eulogy for The New Republic, in which he directly slams Hughes: “Frank Foer isn’t leaving TNR because he wasn’t a good enough editor. He’s leaving because Chris Hughes is not a good enough owner.”
I expect the circumstances surrounding TNR’s transformation will be framed as a matter of modernity versus tradition. There is certainly an element of this. At the magazine’s 100th anniversary gala two weeks ago, where Hughes, Foer, Wieseltier, and Hughes’s new CEO, Guy Vidra, all spoke, the speeches took a sharply, awkwardly divergent tone. Foer and Weiseltier gave soaring paeans to the magazine’s immense role in shaping American liberal thought. Hughes and Vidra used words like brand and boasted about page views, giving no sense of appreciation at all for the magazine’s place in American life.
Today, I did something I thought I’d never do and quit The New Republic. It has been, hands down, the happiest, most satisfying, most intellectually stimulating place I’ve ever worked and my colleagues were, hands down, the most competent, talented, and decent people in the business.
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.
The question that remains to be answered is this: If Chris Hughes wanted to create a new digital media platform all along, why’d he bother buying The New Republic in the first place?