In the battle between historic and explorative, it seems like the latter is winning.
On January 11, 2016, staff of the New Republic learned that owner Chris Hughes would be selling the publication. The historic publication couldn’t withstand the media world as it is today; a exploration of technology and digital-first publications.
“It’s always been a surprise to the rest of the world that I care about tradition and about institutions,” Hughes said in a meeting, according to The New Yorker. “Because we live in a cultural moment which very much rewards the language of startups and Silicon Valley.”
While Hughes’ reasoning seems qualified, it’s worth asking if we have the luxury to maintain tradition and historic institutions like The New Republic. A century-old magazine trying to navigate the digital world seems like a challenge to say the least.
“This institution has been around for one hundred fucking years,” Hughes said.
Hughes wasn’t proclaiming the magazine to be outdated, he was claiming it was worth fighting for. Hughes is a millennial, a piece by Vox says, and “to him it is natural that to be a force in the media world means to be a digital force.”
There are so many aspects to The New Republic’s collapse that it’s almost dizzying. There are also many questions that arise from reading these articles from Vox and The New Yorker.
When we read about The New Republic’s collapse, are we peering into the future?
The New Republic was understaffed as it was going more digital; something we hear a lot about these days.
Are publications like TNR historical journalism establishments, incubators of writing talent or fixed media outlets impermeable to change?
From initial reaction, it seems that magazines are more easily made to be vanity projects than newspapers. They have more of a distinct style and voice, and can get away with more.
The New Republic was founded in 1914, and according to Vox writer Matthew Yglesias, “the magazine’s ideological program laid the foundation for what we now know as the ideology of modern liberalism.” Maybe after these huge events in its lifetime, the collapse is coming from lack of opportunities to push liberalism. Or, maybe, readers care less about the history behind The New Republic. There’s less brand loyalty today with younger generations who get their news. There’s more options for news, and while it’s constantly being pushed to us, there’s not enough time to pick and choose which publication it comes from.
As I read these two pieces by Vox and The New Yorker, it was as if a movie about modern journalism played out before me. Perhaps as culture and socioeconomic issues change, so should niche magazines like The New Republic. Because unlike newspapers and news websites build on different principles, magazines are subject to more change and collapse. No matter what happens with all of this restructuring, it’s safe to assume the media world is doing just fine if The New Republic is a success.