DECEMBER 8, 2010
The New Republic is pleased to announce the appointment of a new editor. Here, outgoing editor Franklin Foer bids adieu, and incoming editor Richard Just introduces his vision for the magazine.
Back when I was a writer, I never quite understood the appeal of editing: all that delicate managing of neurotics and divas, the always-looming menace of budgets, the grim notion of turning down a colleague’s request for a pay raise—and without even the glory of a byline. So when my friend Leon Wieseltier first mentioned the idea of my editing The New Republic, I wasn’t instantly inclined to take the gig. I had never even edited my middle-school newspaper.
But The New Republic had been a great love of my life—among other things, it is the magazine that my father has read cover-to-cover since college with Talmudic care; the first magazine that I began reading with the same sort of attention. To me, it was more than an aggregation of great writers, a set of values, a particular sort of intelligence; it was, in some profound way, my community.
And I’ve grown to love editing for all the reasons that I value community. There’s the pleasure and accomplishment that comes from the collaborative quest to extract the best from a fellow writer’s work; there’s the sense of mission, the effort to make all those issues and web pieces and blog posts add up to something of lasting value.
Harold Ross said that an editor’s life is one of constant disappointment. He was wrong. In our own small way, I have seen how building an intellectual case for policy can make a difference in the broader world—as I hope our crusading on behalf of health care reform did. But I have found the process of producing to be just as rewarding as what we have produced. I couldn’t be more grateful for having had the chance to work in this way with my colleagues in the office and the writers in our orbit.
If you haven’t guessed from my maudlin tone, I’m moving my books and files out of the corner office here at TNR. My five years in the job have been eventful, and, therefore, exhausting. I’ve been itching to get back to writing. So, I’ll be sticking around as editor-at-large—a title that obscures the fact that I won’t actually be doing any editing. I’m very excited to be writing pieces for Richard Just, who will take over the magazine. He’s been The New Republic’s executive editor—and is exactly the right person to now run the mag. If you don’t know his byline, you know the many pieces he has stewarded to a higher level. He’s brimming with great ideas for how to take this franchise to new places.
One final note to our readers: From your correspondence, I know you care as deeply about this institution as our writers and editors do. I know that when you’ve thrown our magazine against the wall, you have done so because you love us. We, of course, consider your support heroic and regard you as the platonic ideal of a learned audience. Many, many thanks.
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably a TNR fan. And if you’re a fan of the magazine, then you know how terrific it has been under Frank’s leadership. What you probably don’t know is that Frank has also been a wonderful boss and mentor—the kind of person that anyone would be lucky to work for. On behalf of everyone at TNR, all of whom have benefited from Frank’s leadership, wisdom, and all-around decency over the past five years, I want to say: Thank you, friend. I and everyone else here will always be proud to have worked for and with you.
I was a devoted reader of The New Republic long before I came to work here, and the opportunity to lead TNR—to follow in Frank’s footsteps and the footsteps of others who have stewarded this amazing institution—is obviously an enormous honor. And I’m particularly excited to be taking this job now. I know that these are famously rough times for our enterprise, but I am undaunted. In fact, the time has come to offer some stiff resistance—by example—to the pessimists. I believe passionately in the higher magazine journalism: in the worth of long-form argument and narrative, the importance (intellectual but also social) of brilliant cultural criticism, and the value of highly informed, nuanced, and passionate crusading. These are all things that are said to be going extinct in the age of web journalism. They’re said to be relics of an earlier time. When people talk about them now, you can sometimes hear a kind of preemptive nostalgia in their voices.
I think these predictions are wrong. I want TNR to be the place that proves this. No magazine has as rich a political and literary tradition as TNR, which means that no magazine is in a better position to demonstrate, definitively, that all the things that we love about magazine journalism can not only survive in this new age of media, but prosper in it. Our print magazine is going to continue to provide the brilliant political and cultural writing that readers have come to expect. But, in addition to that, we are going to build an overhauled web magazine that will reflect in its every corner the most strenuous and most imaginative ideals of magazine journalism. We’re going to publish long-form stories not just in our print magazine, but online as well. We’re going to invest in narrative storytelling and argument that gets beyond the mere shouting of so much contemporary opinion journalism. We’re going to show that shorter pieces of all kinds can be timely, yes, but also beautifully crafted and genuinely thoughtful. We will prefer depth of reflection to spontaneity of expression. We are going to deliver more and more of TNR’s cultural and literary criticism—justifiably known as the best in the world of books and ideas. We are going to provide definitive original reporting on politics and foreign policy. And we are going to crusade, proudly and passionately, on behalf of the strain of liberalism that this magazine has championed for the past century—a liberalism that is obsessed not just with building a fairer, more decent society at home, but also with the spread of democracy and human rights abroad; a liberalism that is not afraid to question itself and to criticize its own.
I hope you will find what we publish challenging, fun, and, most of all, a pleasure to read. And I hope you will spread the word about what we are doing at TNR far and wide. Serious magazine journalism is a precious, beautiful thing. It’s what the people who work at TNR have dedicated our careers to, and what brings us to the office every day. My commitment to you, TNR’s readership, is that this is going to be the place that makes a stand for magazine journalism.