JANUARY 26, 2011
Today, The New Republic announces that Marty Peretz, who has been editor-in-chief of the magazine for 37 years, will become editor-in-chief emeritus. In addition, he will move from writing his blog, The Spine, to writing a column for the website. Marty’s stewardship of The New Republic has been the liveliest and the most intellectually consequential in the long history of the magazine. Though he will no longer be at the top of the masthead, he will remain in the thick of things. Below are some thoughts from Marty:
I have been with The New Republic going on 37 years, almost all of them with the title of editor-in-chief. The truth is that I hardly ever actually edited an article for the magazine. But, frankly, it was my vision—and the vision of my compatriots—of what was needed for a serious journal of opinion in American society that defined what TNR has become since 1974.
The editors and staff we assembled constitute a marvel of American journalism, a long magic moment of intelligence, moral seriousness, responsible politics ... and, forgive me, a deep concern for the national interest. Sometimes we quarreled with our readers and often amongst ourselves. And the truth is that there were a few occasions—very few, actually—in which, as proprietor of the publication, I exercised the prerogative of firing someone. But there was only one occasion when I kept an article from being published. From today's perspective my reluctance to print something on Ted Kennedy's sex life may seem too precious or finicky. Still, I think it was the correct judgment. Let others traffic in such trash.
So I endured hundreds and maybe thousands of pieces which I believed to be ethically flawed, historically wrong, politically foolish. History, in whatever ways history does these chores, will ultimately sort it all out. I dare say that I have tested the patience of some of my staff with more than a few of my articles and perhaps The Spine almost in its entirety. As errants go, however, they've flourished at least as much as I have.
About a year ago, I first contemplated giving up the editor-in-chief moniker. It seemed especially right now that, past 70, I had given up constant contact with the office, even by phone and e-mail. I had taken a perverse liking to blogging. But that also wore me down, although it was gratifying to be able to comment on the news of the moment momentarily. The Spine was not the most popular feature on the website. But it got the most response from readers, much of it angry, some of it inane.
The fact is that I haven't done a serious and long article for the print edition in perhaps half a year. That's what I want to do with some regularity now. (I am keenly aware that articles from the print edition are also served up on the electronic edition.) I suppose I want to have my cake and eat it, too. So I will be writing a weekly column for TNR online but I will indulge in doing a blog post when the spirit moves me.
You have doubtless noticed that Richard Just has succeeded to the real editorship of the magazine. He is in the tradition of Michael Kinsley and Frank Foer, terrifyingly smart, exquisitely literate, brave, and right on the issues. He has my full confidence.
One more matter: It is no secret that my main interests have always been in foreign affairs. I believe that there was, is, an ersatz American mission in the world and that it was epitomized in World War II, in the Cold War and, much less successfully, during the time that Third World countries moved to center stage in international institutions. In fact, the latter period has been so grim because progressive rhetoric has somehow been allowed to front for brutal rule. It will be the confrontation between liberal societies and the forces of tyranny to which I will pay attention.