Readers of The New Republic were shocked yesterday by the sudden announcement that the century-old liberal magazine was moving its headquarters from Washington, D.C., to New York and that its two senior editors had resigned.
Much of the vitriol is aimed at owner Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, who bought the magazine in 2012. When he took over, Hughes brought back former editor Frank Foer as his editor. Foer resigned Thursday, along with Leon Wieseltier, who has been literary editor for three decades.
“Frank Foer isn’t leaving TNR because he wasn’t a good enough editor,” Jonathan Chait wrote in NYMag.com. “He’s leaving because Chris Hughes is not a good enough owner.”
Gabriel Snyder reportedly will replace Foer as editor. The magazine will be published 10 times a year rather than 12.
Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg wrote on his Facebook page: “Frank Foer and Leon Wieseltier are supremely talented and will be fine. It’s The New Republic that’s in desperate trouble.”
“I think it’s sad–the passing of an era,” Slate’s Emily Bazelon wrote in an email, “not just because Frank is leaving, but also because Leon Wieseltier is. He’s his own institution
Guy Vidra, recently hired as chief executive, wrote in a memo to the staff that he is “re-imagining” the magazine into a “vertically integrated digital media company.”
In a memo, Foer wrote that he is leaving because his vision for the magazine differs from that of Hughes and Vidra, according to Washingtonian.
Commented Chait: “Hughes and Vidra are afflicted with the belief that they can copy the formula that transformed the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed into economic successes, which is probably wrong, and that this formula can be applied to The New Republic, which is certainly wrong.
“Today, I did something I thought I’d never do and quit The New Republic,” Julia Ioffee wrote on Facebook on Friday morning. “The narrative you’re going to see Chris and Guy put out there is that I and the rest of my colleagues who quit today were dinosaurs, who think that the Internet is scary and that Buzzfeed is a slur. Don’t believe them.”
Wieseltier did not return an email requesting an interview.
Vidra’s memo to the staff:
To All Staff,
I want to share some news about forthcoming changes at The New Republic.
As you’ve heard, Frank Foer is leaving the company. We are excited to announce that Gabriel Snyder will assume the role of Editor-in-Chief. In addition, Leon Wieseltier will be moving on.
In his time here, Frank has led a meaningful expansion of our team, has done a terrific job advancing the mission of our storied institution, and has continued to insert The New Republic’s voice into the national discourse. We wish him nothing but the best and are very grateful for all he’s done.
As we move forward under Gabriel’s leadership, we are re-imagining The New Republic as a vertically integrated digital media company. Gabriel is ideally suited to bridge traditional journalism and digital media. He is committed – as am I – to The New Republic’s mission of impact, influence and persuasion, but understands that fulfilling that mission in today’s media landscape requires new forms. He truly reflects the “straddle generation” of journalists and editors who remain deeply rooted in the qualities of traditional journalism – having worked with brands such as the New York Observer and The Atlantic – but also understands what it takes to create content that will travel across all platforms. We believe he is the right person to help us to maintain the core DNA of The New Republic, while propelling us forward to the 21st century.
Leon has made an unsurpassed contribution to The New Republic over the last 30 years, and the qualities that he represents are the beating heart of this brand. He is quite frankly an institution unto himself whose indelible mark on this place will never go away.
As we restructure The New Republic, we will be making significant investments in creating a more effective and efficient newsroom as well as improved products across all platforms. This will require a recalibration of our resources in order to deliver the best product possible. In order to do so, we’ve made the decision to reduce the frequency of our print publication from 20 to 10 issues a year and will be making improvements to the magazine itself.
Given the frequency reduction, we will also be making some changes to staff structure. This is not a decision we make lightly, but we believe this restructuring is critical to the long-term success of the company. We will be holding an all-hands meeting tomorrow to help answer any questions or concerns you may have.
And lastly – as some of you may know – we will be moving to a newly re-designed, expanded office in New York’s Union Square. New York was the original home of The New Republic, and we’re thrilled to further expand our presence here.
These are exciting times for our company which will demand change. We are committed to the roots of this magazine – an experiment in opinion to help address the challenges of our time. We can only do this together.