The collapse of The New Republic looks to be a pretty big deal. From what I’ve read, it looks that Chris Hughes’ attempts to bring the popular liberal magazine into the 21st century failed. According to alumni of the magazine, Hughes destroyed the publication with his attempts to add new technology to The New Republic‘s set way of telling stories. Additionally, Hughes fired or let go many of the older employees that didn’t seem to be prepared for a full-scale tech push.
Putting the magazine up for sale is distressing to me, and if I’m being frank, I’ve never heard of this magazine let alone read an article from it.
Even though my relationship with the magazine is nonexistent, I do believe that the collapse of another news magazine is a major disappointment in a world when fewer voices are heard as the media continues to merge. When six companies – Disney, Time Warner, GE, News Corp, CBS and Viacom – own 90 percent of all media in the United States it is quite distressing.
Publications like The New Republic and The New Yorker are important to have in this convergence of voices in the media. As the media becomes more and more converged, it becomes harder and harder for new ideas to be spread. Potentially losing a liberal publication like The New Republic is a loss to liberals no doubt, but also a loss to freedom of speech and ideas for the whole country.
Also, there is no question that technology is easily the most important tool to promote stories and get people to read journalism today, but sacrificing veteran staff members with a wealth of history and knowledge was likely one of the major missteps Hughes made when he took control of the magazine. Technology is only useful if the content that the journalists are making is good.
In an age of immediacy with the news, these more long form stories have become less relevant but not less important. Long form pieces that are found in magazines are typically where most journalists’ best work is done. Moving into a digital brand should not mean the end for long form and time consuming stories. Journalists and the corporations need to work together to find a way to move a company to a digital platform without compromising the essence of the publication that people loved so much.