Last week, Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes,
was publicly slammed by the media elite for his decision to hire Gabriel Snyder, formerly of Gawker and the Atlantic Wire, to replace Franklin Foer as editor of the 100-year-old magazine The New Republic.
On Friday, LinkedIn co-founder and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman came out swinging in Hughes’ defence.
Hoffman published a column on LinkedIn called, “When The Disruption Hits The Fan: Why The New Republic Has To Stop Being So Conservative.”
To recap the controversy: Hughes bought TNR in 2012 and is the currently the editor-in-chief and publisher. Shortly after the widely respected magazine celebrated its 100th anniversary, owners announced plans to turn it into a “vertically integrated digital media company.”
The decision to replace Sunder and another other long-standing editor caused public outrage from a bunch of TNR employees including mass resignations announced via Twitter, many from contributing editors.
One such contributor, Jonathan Chait, went on to pen a scathing editorial about Hughes for New York Magazine in which he wrote, “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.”
As Business Insider’s Caroline Moss reported, this is “a perfect example of the long-standing divide between the Silicon Valley mentality of ‘disrupt everything’ and the tradition-heavy East Coast media scene”
But Hoffman points out that in the late 1990’s, Hughes or no Hughes, the internet had arrived.
“Suddenly, thanks to the web, there was lots of lively but wonky public affairs coverage… On the cusp of the new millennium, [TNR] had 101,000 paying subscribers. By the time Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes bought it in 2012, that number had fallen to 34,000. Long before Chris arrived, the magazine had recognised the need to adapt to the new realities online distribution was creating.”
In the end, Hoffman makes a central point: Things change. Adapt or die. He writes:
“It’s not just about The New Republic and how things have always been done there. It’s about the entire news media ecosystem in which The New Republic operates. In this new environment of abundant competition, even the most generous benefactor can’t ensure a publication’s survival.”