Leaving TNR

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JONATHAN CHAIT SEPTEMBER 9, 2011

Leaving TNR

I don’t know how to say goodbye to a magazine that’s been my home since I was a 23 year old intern one year out of college, where I’ve made some of the best friends in my life, and whose identity has become almost indistinct from my own. Since deciding to accept a job at New York magazine, I’ve tried to write that goodbye, but nothing seems adequate to the scale of the task before me. So, as I’ve learned to do in the face of deadlines, I’m just writing.

My love affair with the New Republic began in college. I was a liberal on a radical college campus, amused and appalled by the political culture that surrounded me. I became enchanted, even obsessed, with this funny, whip-smart magazine that identified as liberal, and understood this to mean opposition to the conservatism that was beginning to dominate our national life as well as the left-wing orthodoxies predominating in small pockets of it. I would check the mailbox every hour on the first day the magazine might arrive, though it might take several days of checking before there would be a fresh issue in it. I would head to the library to study, and allow myself to warm up to the task by reading old bound volumes of TNR, sometimes until the whole evening had passed.

I decided I had to work for TNR, and I was turned down for the internship before my senior year of college, and after my senior year of college, before finally landing it after a year at the American Prospect. In my mind I had built it up into the greatest thing that could possibly happen to me, the way a kid might imagine being a sports star. The reality has been... everything I hoped for, and more. Nobody has a right to as much fun as I’ve had here. Who gets to live a professional life that exceeds their fondest dreams?

Why would I leave, then? I have an opportunity at New York magazine that’s so unbelievable I can’t walk away from it. I shouldn’t plump for another magazine in TNR’s space, but the magazine -- which my journalist friends all consider absolutely first rate -- and the structure of the job simply couldn’t be better. Starting Monday, September 19, I'll be writing for New York's addictive, outrageously fun blog Daily Intel, and -- for those who don't want to have more fun than necessary -- I'll also have just my blog items appearing on my own page. I’ll also contribute longer pieces for the print magazine.

In the meantime, when I informed Richard Just I was going to accept the job at New York, I suggested Tim Noah as a replacement. He’s a rightly well-regarded reporter/pundit with a deep understanding of politics and policy and a great sense of humor. When I came into the office on Tuesday, Tim was there. It was about the most obvious move you can imagine, and the readers here are going to see why. I’ll still contribute occasional book reviews, and of course I’ll always remain part of the extended family, like the many writers and editors who have come through this magazine over the years. I may pop my head in on the blog once or twice over the next few days, but Tim will be ready to step in very soon.

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of conversations with colleagues who have moved on to other places. When I ask them how the new place compares with TNR, almost invariably they say the same thing: “It’s very corporate.” I can only conclude from this that TNR is the least corporate place in American journalism. I suppose this is the appropriate description for a magazine where college interns in shorts and sandals challenge philosophical first principles of twenty-year veterans, and where senior writers inaugurate a move into new offices by wrapping themselves head to toe in bubble wrap and holding a gladiatorial bout in front of the entire staff.

I love it, I’ll miss everyone, and I’ll remain a faithful reader -- like, I hope, all of you.

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posted in: jonathan chait, new york, tim noah

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