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The New Republic and the Long Magazine Article

Back in December 2014 The New Republic saw the majority of the editors for the publication resign.  Twelve senior editors and twenty contributing editors left the publication, upset with the direction for the magazine that has been articulated by its new owner, Chris Hughes. Dylan Byers reported in Politico on who the editors were who resigned, and their stated reasons. This news set alight a small grove of the Internet’s wide green forest…those who had a personal history with TNR and those who comment on the state of American journalism.  Immediate response from any was a tone of resigned anguish–that while there was perhaps a generational transition for a private enterprise at the heart of this, “eulogy” was a popular word to describe these resignation.  Reporting in Vox Ezra Klein gathered tweets and other primary documents as the story broke, and his own take on the demise of the “ambitious policy magazine.”  Ross Douthat expanded on this idea in the New York Times Sunday Review when he wrote of “the loss of the older magazine’s ability to be idiosyncratic and nonpandering and just tell their readers what they should care about, because more than ever before you need to care about what readers click on first…to get the traffic that pays for the ads.” Of the TNR, Douthat concludes:

It wasn’t just a liberal magazine, in other words; it was a liberal-arts magazine, which unlike many of today’s online ventures never left its readers with the delusion that literary style or intellectual ambition were of secondary importance, or that today’s fashions represented permanent truths.

That point is what perhaps makes this more than a tale of a “creative destruction,” it is rather a moment asking the question whether long articles still have a place in journalism.  Is a sustained linear narrative on a complicated topic possible outside of academic literature, and if the events at the TNR suggest no, what does that mean?  The image of a Sunday feature, a longer piece of journalism that could fill a quiet Sunday afternoon brings with it the idea of a reader having time to think about what they have read. Digesting something.  Does the fate of the TNR suggest that this kind of reading is unsustainable in an online environment?  They’ll be several more posts with commentary on the fate of the TNR

~ by pdoty on March 30, 2015.

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