After shake-up, New Republic staffers resign en masse
The majority of The New Republic's masthead resigned en masse on Friday following the owner's decision to force out the editorial leadership, move the magazine to New York, and rebrand the venerable, century-old publication as a "digital media company."
Nine of the magazine's twelve senior editors submitted letters of resignation to owner Chris Hughes and chief executive Guy Vidra, as did two executive editors, the digital media editor, the legislative affairs editor, and two arts editors. At least twenty of the magazine's contributing editors also requested that their names be removed from the magazine's masthead.
The mass departure came one day after a shakeup that saw the resignation of top editor Franklin Foer and veteran literary editor Leon Wieseltier, both of whom resigned due to differences of vision with Hughes, a 31-year-old Facebook co-founder who bought the magazine in 2012. Foer announced his resignation on Thursday after discovering that Hughes had already hired his replacement, Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who formerly ran The Atlantic Wire blog.
Late Thursday night, several of the top editors gathered at Foer's house in Washington to hold what was described by one source as a funeral for the magazine. Wieseltier, who served for 31 years as the magazine's literary editor, entered the room and introduced himself as "the former" literary editor of The New Republic.
Those who resigned are senior editors Jonathan Cohn, Isaac Chotiner, Julia Ioffe, John Judis, Adam Kirsch, Alec MacGillis, Noam Scheiber, Judith Shulevitz and Jason Zengerle; executive editors Rachel Morris and Greg Veis; digital media editor Hillary Kelly (who resigned from her honeymoon in Africa); legal affairs editor Jeffrey Rosen; and poetry editor Henri Cole and dance editor Jennifer Homans. Contributing editors Anne Applebaum, Paul Berman, Christopher Benfey, Jonathan Chait, William Deresiewicz, Justin Driver, TA Frank, Ruth Franklin, Jack Goldsmith, Anthony Grafton, David Grann, David Greenberg, Robert Kagan, Enrique Krauze, Damon Linker, Ryan Lizza, John McWhorter, Sacha Z. Scoblic, Cass Sunstein, Alan Taylor, Helen Vendler and Sean Wilentz.
Many of those who resigned on Friday believe that Hughes and Vidra now intend to turn TNR into a click-focused digital media company, at the expense of the magazine's strong editorial traditions and venerable brand, according to sources who attended the gathering at Foer's house.
"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," Julia Ioffe, one of the resigning senior editors, wrote in a Facebook post. "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," Ioffe wrote. "Those were the pieces that got the most clicks."
In an address to what remained of the New Republic staff on Friday, Vidra sought to quell the fears and provide encouragement, sources there said. Hughes, who was not in Washington for the meeting, assured the remaining staff, "I care about tradition." They did not take questions.
In a statement released after the meeting, Hughes said, "I am saddened by the loss of such great talent, many of whom have played an important role in making The New Republic so successful in the past. It has been a privilege to work with them, and I wish them only the best. This is a time of transition, but I am excited to work with our team – both new and old alike – as we pave a new way forward. The singular importance of The New Republic as an institution can and will be preserved, because it’s bigger than any one of us."
This post has been updated.