Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, just bought The New Republic, becoming both its publisher and editor-in-chief:
The latter title is significant. Martin Peretz bought the magazine in 1974 and assumed the title, and took a direct hand in running the editorial operations, with mixed but fascinating results. Subsequent owners have taken financial responsibility, but none adopted the Editor-in-Chief title, which implies a higher level of commitment. The Editor remains Richard Just, but Hughes is clearly indicating he's in the magazine for the long haul.
It couldn't have come at a better time:
The publication has cut back both advertising pages and publication dates in the last several years, (the long-time weekly is now printed biweekly) and struggled to find its footing with a semi-paid online model. In a letter published on the magazine's website this morning, Hughes reiterated his commitment to the TNR's mission, which 98 years after its founding remains an "experiment" in thoughtful, yet entertaining long form journalism. Fortunately, Hughes — who is worth $700 million according to Forbes — can afford to tinker in the lab for awhile.
I couldn't be happier, as a former editor. A completely fresh start with an owner who gets new media and wants to support good long-form journalism is a fantastic way for the magazine to approach its centenary. I wonder, however, how Leon Wieseltier will respond. His section of TNR has run countless, endless screeds against all forms of new media, a brutal hostility to blogs, and a contempt for virtual reading (his latest piece is a screed in defense of physical books). The latest cover is another essay by his latest darling, Evgeny Morozov, on the same lines.
Now he will answer to a Facebook multimillionaire!