The implosion of The New Republic, pending its move to New York and re-establishment as a “digital media” company, has consumed much of the political commentariat in recent days. The change is deeply mourned by former editors and writers for the publication, many of whom resigned in protest. However, the shift mirrors that of other publications that shifted further left in recent years, only to stumble into commercial failure.
Former publisher Marty Peretz lamented in 2013 that the magazine he sold to Facebook guru Chris Hughes–a key social media operative in Barack Obama’s rise to power–had moved in a nakedly partisan direction, away from its traditional center-left liberalism: “The magazine wasn’t supposed to be a White House siphon….The magazine now seems to live in a space where those ‘little insurrections of the mind’ are unwelcome. It is akin to the atmosphere in many colleges and universities: There are prevailing orthodoxies but they aren’t recognized as such. Mr. Obama himself is the main one. The president is an object of fealty at the New Republic in a way that Woodrow Wilson and even Franklin Roosevelt never were,” Peretz wrote in the Wall Street Journal. He also voiced concern about the magazine’s increasing drift towards the left’s emerging anti-Israel orthodoxy.
Left-wing publications can certainly be profitable–very profitable. However, The New Republic‘s new owners made two mistakes: first, abandoning a loyal readership; second, taking the magazine into a saturated part of the media market, i.e. the syrupy world of “content,” where the race for traffic can often overwhelm brand identity. The best case scenario for the publication’s future is that of a highbrow–or more overtly left–Buzzfeed.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak