The New Republic, a once successful liberal publication that has been around for over 100 years, is finally starting to reach its demise.
According to Vox, the downfall began when Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes decided to buy the publication on March 9, 2012, and transition it to a digital media company, something that was not well received by the vast majority of the staff.
The biggest mistake made by Hughes was replacing beloved editors Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier. Foer in particular, was never on the same page as Hughes regarding his vision for the magazine. He did not believe that the visual edition had as much value, while editing the print was more important.
It was an interesting relationship for Hughes and Foer. Hughes wanted Foer’s notoriety to improve the paper, while Foer entertained Hughes demands in order to fund his work. When it became apparent that the situation could no longer persist, Foer learned that he was being fired through sources, rather than a face to face conversation.
According to the Vox article, Hughes handling of the situation led to mass resignations and criticism from the publication’s impressive base of alumni. Even former owner Martin Peretz was chimed in on the issue.
“A publication that buoyed anti-black, anti-Latino, anti-Arab, Islamophobic racism was tolerable; a publication that fired two beloved white men was not,” said Peretz.
Once Hughes realized everybody was quickly turning on him, he went out of his way to form an alliances with anybody he could. Interestingly enough, he did this by connecting with former critics of the magazine.
Hughes publicly criticized the magazine’s Peretz era by opposing his views that were seen as anti-arab racism. Instead of earning more support, Hughes’ plan backfired, as Foer and other former employees pushed back.
The New Republic, which had experienced a great amount of success through the backing of alumni, was now being hurt by Peretz era staffers. The once prestigious magazine was now seen as a mess. Stories leaked out about its demise, and its image began to decline exponentially.
In early 2016, Hughes finally waved the white flag, announcing that he was putting The New Republic up for sale. The Wall Street Journal cited the several negative articles written by former staffers as a reason for the sale. Since the articles came out, 50% of web traffic was lost, and unique web visitors went down 38%.
Amidst the sale Hughes has stuck by his guns, claiming that the magazine should continue to follow the digital route.
“Our disagreement didn’t help our ability to make The New Republic viable today, but it also did not spell our demise,”Hughes said. “Even though our search for a workable business model has come up short, we have shown that digital journalism isn’t at odds with quality and depth.”
While Hughes had a plan that made sense for The New Republic moving forward, he overstepped his boundaries and attempted to bring overly drastic changes. In this situation, as an editor it is best to respect those who came before you and understand your publication’s history. Hughes failed to do this and it led to the magazine’s collapse.