For-profit

The New Republic

Website:

newrepublic.com/

Category:

Editorial Magazine

Issue Frequency:

10 times per year

First Issue:

November 7, 1914

Publisher:

Hamilton Fish V

The New Republic (TNR) is a left-of-center opinion journal founded in 1914 and originally intended as a platform to promote the ideas of its first managing editor, Herb Croly, who advocated for a more powerful federal government, wealth redistribution, much more powerful labor unions, increased regulation on business, and higher taxes. [1] The founding owners of TNR were Willard Straight and Dorothy Payne Whitney. [2] Their son, Michael Straight, who would lead the magazine after World War II, was a former Soviet spy. [3] Since 2016, TNR has been owned by Win McCormack, a co-founder of the left-wing Mother Jones magazine. [4] [5]

From its earliest days up through and beyond World War II The New Republic projected a strongly left-wing ideology, supporting the socialist candidate for President in 1932,[6] and producing many articles praising the progress of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. [7] In 1984, a TNR editorial stated that a “scandal in the history of this journal” had been “downplaying at best and justifying at worst the crimes of Stalinism.” [8] Under new ownership from 1953 through 1974, TNR writers and editors generally supported a ‘New Left’ agenda that included opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam and support for Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. [9] A TNR editorial also denounced U.S. Senators as “witch hunters” for investigating the membership of the left-wing Fair Play for Cuba Committee. [10]

TNR became a centrist journal from 1974 through 2007, with writers favoring the Contra rebels fighting against the communist government in Nicaragua during the 1980s, opposing the healthcare proposal offered by President Bill Clinton during the early 1990s, and supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. [11] [12] Conservative journalists such as Charles Krauthammer and Fred Barnes worked early in their careers during this period at TNR. [13] Two major scandals during the era included serial fabrications of stories by writer Stephen Glass in the late 1990s,[14] and the sexual harassment offenses allegedly committed by literary editor Leon Wieseltier during his nearly three decades at TNR (1983-2014). [15]

History

The editorial ideology of The New Republic and its staff has evolved from an initial strong bias favoring socialism, through a period where TNR was staffed by a mix of left- and right-of-center writers and editors, to a reversion toward the left. There have been six distinct eras in the magazine’s history, demarcated by shifts in editorial ideology, changes in ownership, or the replacement of managing editors. The (sometimes) precarious financial viability of the magazine has also influenced some of these shifts.

Founding: 1914

Former TNR editor Franklin Foer has written that the inspiration for what became The New Republic began with The Promise of American Life, a 1909 public policy treatise written by TNR’s first editor, Herbert Croly. Croly’s thesis was that the “individualism and libertarianism” of Thomas Jefferson had dominated the nation’s culture since 1776, but that these values “no longer matched the realities of the industrial age.” In their place, Croly advocated creation of a “strong central state” that had been promoted by Alexander Hamilton. [16]

“Where the nation had once thrived on the ethic of competition and private gain,” wrote University of Texas historian Richard Pells, explaining the ideas in Croly’s book, “it could now neither tolerate nor return to a society based on these principles.” Pells summarizes Croly’s policy prescriptions as a “strong national government capable of regulating giant corporations in the public interest, the use of taxation to redistribute wealth, the elevation of labor unions to parity with government and industry, and a general faith in leadership and expertise as the guiding instruments of reform.” [17]

Croly’s book, according to Pells, was “an influential summary of the prewar reform spirit and a classic illustration of how the liberal mind evolved during the first three decades of the twentieth century” which “rapidly became the bible not only of [President Theodore] Roosevelt wing of Progressivism but also of that group of liberal intellectuals whose voice became the New Republic [sic] after 1914 – among them John Dewey, Walter Lippmann, Walter Weyl, George Soule, and Bruce Bliven.” [18]

Croly’s book was enjoyed by Willard Straight, an investor for J.P. Morgan in China, and his wife, the wealthy heiress Dorothy Payne Whitney. Shortly after reading it the couple met the author and within months had the outlines of an idea to fund a weekly magazine that would promote Croly’s ideas. [19]

Foer’s description of TNR’s early days recounts a letter from Croly to Straight, explaining the objective of the publication:

“[Our] primary purpose, will not be to record facts but to give certain ideals and opinions a higher value in American public opinion. If these ideas and opinions were accepted as facts it would be unnecessary to start the paper. The whole point is that we are trying to impose views on blind or reluctant people.” [20]

The first issue of TNR appeared in November 1914. [21]

Socialist Left Era: 1914-1953

Under its first three editors (Herbert Croly, Bruce Bliven, and Henry A. Wallace) The New Republic’s editorial positions veered strongly to the left of American norms, were frequently socialist, and sometimes expressed sympathies toward Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s regime.

One of the earliest TNR editorials in 1914 called for nationalization of privately-owned American railroads. [22]

In 1932 the magazine endorsed Socialist Norman Thomas for President over Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Republican incumbent Herbert Hoover, and by 1936 was calling FDR’s New Deal “sadly deficient” in comparison to more stridently left-wing options. [23]

A 1935 editorial declared there was “no hope of gradual evolution towards an effective socialism within the existing framework of the United States” and called for replacement of the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution with a “Supreme Planning Council” to manage the economy. “To have a socialist society,” it asserted, “we must have a new Constitution.” [24]

Commenting on state planning in the Soviet Union under the Stalin’s forced collectivization of agriculture (which resulted in millions of deaths in Ukraine[25]), one TNR writer in 1937 declared it a “consummate triumph of the Revolution.” Another author, the same year, praised the Soviets for growing economic production while producing “less suffering than capitalism at any time.” A book reviewer in the 1930s came away from one review commenting that Stalin appeared to be “a person for whose character one has a tremendous respect.” [26]

Michael Straight, son of the founding owners, managed TNR for the family following World War II. Just a few years prior, Straight had been an active Soviet spy against the United States whose recruitment (according to a 2014 TNR profile of the magazine’s early years) was rumored to have been “personally tracked” by Stalin. Straight put former U.S. Vice President Henry A. Wallace in charge as editor. Wallace would leave to run for President in 1948 with (according to TNR) “the not-so-stealth support of the communists,” but before doing so had turned the magazine into “a tiresome vehicle for Wallace’s vision of world government.” [27]

Straight became editor following Wallace’s departure, a period marked in part by TNR’s editorial opposition to Wisconsin Republican U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s accusations regarding Soviet infiltration of the American government. Straight did not reveal his own past as a Soviet spy to the U.S. government until the 1960s, after he sold TNR; his activities did not become public knowledge until the 1980s. [28]

TNR became financially unstable in its early years, filing for bankruptcy in 1924. [29] Money troubles emerged again following Wallace’s departure as editor in 1948, with owner Michael Straight increasingly no longer willing or able to subsidize the magazine, and discussions began about merging it with The Nation. [30]

New Left Era: 1953-1974

Circulation began falling in the early 1950s and The New Republic was sold to Gilbert Harrison in 1953. (An obituary of Harrison later stated that annual loses during his period of ownership ranged from $50,000 to $200,000). [31] [32]

Under Harrison’s ownership TNR was first a defender and then a critic of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, and a backer of Vietnam War opponent Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. [33]

TNR both embraced and criticized the politics of the so-called “New Left” during the Harrison ownership. A 1956 column from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. advocated for an “anarcho-syndicalist revolt” against the “Establishment” that he said would be “enormously helpful.” [34] Then, during the apex of Vietnam War protests, TNR editors excused the radicalization of university campuses as fitting with the “abnormal” times. [35] But in 1967, one TNR writer compared New Left rioters to “brownshirts,” and in 1968 a report regarding “War on Poverty” era community action agencies exposed that the organizations “have on their payrolls radicals who advocate tearing down the whole society.” [36]

A 1961 editorial criticized the U.S. Senate as “witch hunters” for investigating the membership of the left-wing Fair Play for Cuba Committee. [37]

Centrist Era: 1974-2007

In 1974 Martin Peretz purchased The New Republic from Gilbert Harrison for $380,000. Peretz and his then-wife, Singer Sewing Machine heiress Anne Labouisse Farnsworth, had been financiers of several New Left causes, including the failed 1968 Democratic presidential candidacy of Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN), an effort to which they gave $350,000 (more than $2.5 million in 2019 dollars). [38]

Under Peretz’s leadership, TNR evolved into a centrist publication, employing managing editors and journalists who represented the left, the right, and the center. Right-of-center managing editors included Andrew Sullivan (1991-1996) and Michael Kelly (1996-1997).  In 2007, as this era came to a close, left-of-center journalist Eric Alterman wrote that initially the new look TNR “unarguably set the terms of debate for insider political elites during the Reagan era — with Charles Krauthammer charging from the right, backed up by right-wing pooper-scooper (then as now) Fred Barnes attacking liberals; and clueless Morton Kondracke offering up conventional wisdom from every direction at once; responded to by the politically no less polymorphous but intellectually far more engaging Mickey Kaus firing in all directions from the middle; and with [editor Michael] Kinsley and [editor Hendrik] Hertzberg, bolstered by a revolving crew of heavy-hitters like Sidney Blumenthal, Robert Kuttner, Ronald Steel, Michael Walzer, and Irving Howe answering from the liberal left.” [39]

In a 1984 editorial commemorating the magazine’s 75th anniversary, TNR conceded it had made errors in judgement regarding the Soviet Union: “the scandal in the history of this journal is that in the ’30s and ’40s it accommodated to the Zeitgeist (with occasional and important dissents…) by downplaying at best and justifying at worst the crimes of Stalinism.” [40]

During the administration of Republican President Ronald Reagan, the White House requested 20 copies of every TNR weekly issue. Alterman reports that the right-of-center magazine National Review and right-of-center Washington Post columnist George Will each praised TNR as one of the nation’s most interesting publications, while right-of-center pundit Norman Podhoretz declared it “indispensable.” [41]

Right-of-center policy positions during this era included Peretz’s strong support for Israel and its foreign policy and his endorsement of the Contra rebels fighting the communist government of Nicaragua. TNR published a critical examination of the welfare state, helping fuel momentum for the 1996 welfare reform legislation agreed to by then-President Bill Clinton and the Republican-led Congress, and an influential essay credited with scuttling the Clinton healthcare proposal. In 2003 it editorialized in favor of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. [42] [43]

In 2006, responding to an accusation TNR had become too centrist, Peretz wrote an editorial stating it retained left-of-center positions on many issues: “The New Republic is very much against the Bush tax programs, against Bush Social Security “reform,” against cutting the inheritance tax, for radical health care changes, passionate about Gore-type environmentalism, for a woman’s entitlement to an abortion, for gay marriage, for an increase in the minimum wage, for pursuing aggressively alternatives to our present reliance on oil and our present tax preferences for gas-guzzling automobiles.” [44]

Peretz repeatedly fought with the editors he had hired to lead the magazine. Andrew Sullivan left in 1996 after feuding with Peretz and literary editor Leon Wieseltier, who accused Sullivan of causing an “extraordinary amount of professional and personal unhappiness” at the office. Sullivan’s replacement, Michael Kelly, lasted one year and was fired because of his criticisms of the Clinton-Gore administration (former Vice President Al Gore is a close friend of Peretz). Kelly’s replacement, Charles Lane, quit after two years when he learned from a newspaper reporter that Peretz was talking about firing him. Lane’s replacement, Peter Beinart, reportedly ran afoul of Peretz after criticizing Israeli policy toward the Palestinians and left in 2006. [45] [46]

TNR’s circulation hovered around 100,000 from the early years after Peretz’s purchase until 2000, when it declined 13 percent, and then fell another 26 percent after 2003 and TNR’s editorial support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The financial strength of the publication under his watch was never strong, fluctuating between deficits and small profits – the highest profit being $175,000 in 1993. In 2001, Peretz sold majority ownership of TNR to businessmen Roger Hertog and Michael Steinhardt but retained editorial control. [47]

In a 2011 interview with the New York Times, Peretz claimed to have “lost millions and millions” keeping TNR in business. [48]

Drift Left: 2007-2012

In 2007 CanWest, a Canadian media firm, became majority owner of The New Republic, having purchased the shares of businessmen Roger Hertog and Michael Steinhardt. CanWest declared bankruptcy two years later, leading to a group of investors headed by Peretz purchasing control of the publication. [49]

In 2007, at the start of this series of ownership shuffles, editor Franklin Foer submitted an editorial apologizing for TNR’s opposition to the Clinton healthcare plan during the early 1990s. Foer also stated the magazine was becoming “more liberal,” had been wrong to support the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and would be “encouraging Democrats to dream big again on the environment and economics.” [50]

Peretz’s direct involvement with the magazine declined through this period. A 2011 New York Times profile states he was given his own separate blog within the TNR umbrella because “other TNR writers were embarrassed to share space with him” and that the blog itself created troubles because with it Peretz “behaved like a rogue state.” [51]

In September 2010 Peretz wrote in his TNR blog that “Muslim life is cheap,” and speculated that Muslims do not deserve the protections of the First Amendment. This sparked demonstrations against him when he attended an event at Harvard University, where he had once been a lecturer, and condemnations in the pages of The Nation, The Atlantic and the New York Times. TNR editor Franklin Foer resigned shortly after this controversy, in part – according to the New York Times – because of “difficulty of dealing with Peretz.” [52] [53]

Peretz surrendered his editor-in-chief title in December 2010, gave up his blog at TNR, and became the emeritus editor. [54] Richard Just replaced Foer as the managing editor in late 2010 as the magazine was facing insolvency and laying off staff. [55]

Chris Hughes Ownership: 2012-2016

In early 2012, after consultations with managing editor Richard Just and literary editor Leon Wieseltier, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes (then age 29) purchased The New Republic for $2.1 million and would reportedly invest another $20 million into it over the next several years of his ownership. Two months after the purchase became final, Hughes fired Just and replaced him with previous editor Franklin Foer. [56] [57]

Hughes’ three years of owning TNR were an effort to transform it into a “digital-media company” under a strategy described as treating the century-old magazine as a “hundred-year-old startup.” Former New Republic staffer Ryan Lizza has written that in practice this resulted in staffers viewing the new ownership as very concerned with the web and social media traffic of the magazine, and not concerned enough with the quality of the journalism and the traditions of the publication. [58]

In December 2014, Hughes forced editor Franklin Foer to leave the magazine. A Hughes-appointed executive reportedly told staffers this was because Foer did not provide “ideas that would help things travel” – “travel” being the Hughes team’s phrase for success in the digital media world. Longtime literary editor Leon Wieseltier and most of the other top editors at TNR resigned in protest, and the ensuing turmoil caused the magazine to miss a scheduled issue for the first time in its history. In solidarity with Foer and the defectors, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had just spoken at TNR’s 100th anniversary celebration, cancelled her subscription. [59]

Former owner Martin Peretz, no longer associated with TNR, criticized the Hughes editorial approach for “embracing a leftist outlook as predictable as that of Mother Jones or the Nation.” [60]

The next issue of TNR following the staff defections came out in February 2015. Under Hughes TNR (which in its earlier days had been a weekly publication) reduced publication frequency from twenty issues per year to ten. [61]

Contemporary Period: 2016-Present

In February 2016, Chris Hughes sold The New Republic to Win McCormack, a co-founder of the left-wing Mother Jones magazine.  McCormack hired Hamilton Fish V, the former publisher of The Nation, another left-wing publication, to become publisher of TNR. McCormack announced TNR would retain its founding tradition as the “organ of a modernized liberalism.” [62] [63]

In November 2017 Fish resigned from TNR following allegations of and an investigation into alleged workplace misconduct toward female employees. [64]

Controversies

Stephen Glass Story Fabrications

In 1998, following an investigation of then-25-year-old New Republic writer Stephen Glass by reporters at Forbes Digital Tool, TNR revealed that sources, quotes, and in some cases even all relevant facts had been fabricated in 27 of 41 articles written by Glass during the preceding 2½ years. During the same period Glass fabricated some or part of three articles for George, two for Rolling Stone, and one for Policy Review. Glass was fired by TNR editor Charles Lane after the fabricated work was discovered. [65] [66]

Early on in his career at TNR, the “made-up parts” in Glass’s work were “relatively small” and “melded with mostly factual stories,” according to a 1998 Vanity Fair report on the incident. The first Glass story now known to have been completely fabricated with no factual basis whatsoever was a March 1997 TNR report purporting to be about that year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Glass claimed to have interacted with a group of young men who were drinking, smoking pot, and describing how they would sexually humiliate the “the ugliest and loneliest” woman they could find. [67]

David Keene, chairman of the organization that sponsors CPAC, called TNR to raise factual discrepancies in the story, accusing Glass of being “quite a fiction writer.” After a brief investigation, then-TNR editor Michael Kelly chose to stand behind Glass. The story would not be proven to be an invention until all of Glass’s fabrications had been exposed more than a year later. [68]

Vanity Fair writer Buzz Bissinger noted both a motive and opportunity for Glass’s behavior. As to motive, Bissinger reported Glass was attending law school while simultaneously working full time at TNR and writing for other publications. As to opportunity, Glass had by the time of his hoaxes become respected as one of TNR’s most aggressive fact-checkers, leaving him well-placed to exploit the trust he had cultivated. [69]

Glass later completed law school and moved to California but was denied admission to the California bar because of what the New York Times referred to as his “previous ethical lapses.” Glass appealed the decision and persuaded Martin Peretz, the owner of TNR during the period when Glass committed his offenses against the publication, to testify in his favor. According to the NYT, “Peretz told the bar committee that Glass’s accusers were hypocrites and that he would hire Glass if given the chance.” [70]

Wieseltier Sexual Harassment Allegations

In 2017 the name of Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic from 1983 to 2014, appeared on an anonymous online spreadsheet of “media men” who had allegedly sexually harassed or assaulted women in their workplaces. Subsequently more than a dozen women formerly employed at TNR began privately discussing stories of their experiences with Wieseltier and – according to the Atlantic – to “hatch a plan for how to make those experiences public.” The “Leon stories” reported by some of the women to the Atlantic included “everything from being called “sweetie” in the workplace to unwanted touching, kissing, groping, and other sexual advances.” [71]

Many of the women reported being “humiliated when Mr. Wieseltier sloppily kissed them on the mouth, sometimes in front of other staff members,” according to a New York Times report. “Others said he discussed his sex life, once describing the breasts of a former girlfriend in detail. Mr. Wieseltier made passes at female staffers, they said, and pressed them for details about their own sexual encounters.” [72]

Wieseltier responded with a public statement:

“For my offenses against some of my colleagues in the past I offer a shaken apology and ask for their forgiveness. The women with whom I worked are smart and good people. I am ashamed to know that I made any of them feel demeaned and disrespected. I assure them that I will not waste this reckoning.” [73]

According to the women interviewed by The New York Times, “male staff members routinely witnessed Mr. Wieseltier’s behavior and did nothing.” [74]

Sarah Wildman, once an assistant editor at TNR, wrote in November 2017 that Wieseltier had 15 years earlier cornered her and forcibly kissed her in a bathroom at a bar. She subsequently reported the incident to then-editor Peter Beinart, who confirmed in a 2017 written statement that she had done so and that he had reported her concern directly to the magazine’s then-owner, Marty Peretz. According to Beinart, this led to meeting between himself, Peretz and Wieseltier, but no “meaningful action” from Peretz. [75]

Peretz, contacted by Wildman’s editor in 2017, claimed no knowledge of the concerns regarding Wieseltier, nor of remembering who Sarah Wildman was, and of Beinart’s allegation said “Peter never, ever, ever reported this to me.” [76]

“I should have done far more,” said Beinart’s 2017 note to Wildman. “I was complicit in an institutional culture that lacked professional procedures regarding sexual harassment, and which victimized women, including women I considered friends. I will always be ashamed of that, and will ensure that I am never similarly complicit again.” [77]

Wieseltier had quit working for The New Republic in 2014, allegedly following a dispute between senior staffers and new owner Chris Hughes. Following the 2017 revelations regarding Wieseltier’s conduct, Hughes released a statement stating an employee in 2014 had accused Wieseltier of harassment. Hughes stated the literary editor was told to “cease any communication” with the woman and informed that TNR “had a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment.” [78]

Employment Practices

In early 2019, The New Republic posted a job opening for an “Inequality Deputy Editor” who would be responsible for editing a new inequality column and would be required to work 29.5 hours per week with no benefits. [79] (The 29.5 hour work week places the position just under the legal definition of a full-time worker that, under Obamacare, would require The New Republic to provide the editor certain employee benefits.) These miserly terms of employment appeared at odds with the stated goal of creating a column to address economic inequality in America.

In May 2019, The New Republic published an article titled “Down and Out in the Gig Economy” in which its author Jacob Silverman claimed that “Journalism’s dependence on part-time freelancers has been bad for the industry.” Silverman even criticized The New Republic in the article saying that he has written for the magazine “for seven-plus years and several ownership regimes without ever receiving a job offer.” Silverman then claimed that this miserly employment practice became popular because, as part-time employees or contractors, TNR would not “need to offer them any of the trappings of full employment.” [80]

References

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Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Chris Hughes
    Former Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
  2. Hamilton Fish
    Former Publisher and Editorial Director
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