Saturday, June 30, 2007

Alterman's history of the one time liberal The New Republic

The did manage to publish my first letter to the editor before Bush's Iraq debacle began.


Anonymous said...

Fun personal fact: I applied as an intern for TNR in 1989. I really thought of myself as a shoein; I had written several great columns of a political/literary nature at college and had impeccable credentials (I was even in Baltimore at graduate school at the time).

But I didn't make it; the first of numerous literary disappointments, I suppose :) After that, i read TNR with a jaded eye. There seemed to be more hatchet jobs on minor politicians than genuine thought pieces. Then again, Robert Reich and others who went to found American Prospect came from the mag. But from 1991 or 1992 it began its decline. By the way, one quibble with Alterman's excellent article is that the cover stories on Clinton's health care plan and Charles Murray were both excellent and provocative. Accompanying the Murray piece were dozens of responses (which basically repudiated his points). And the health care article made legitimate points. (and there were several follow ups defending it). Still, to take such a public position condemning the health care reform
might have helped to derail its popularity.

Print journalism unfortunately is just not relevant anymore. You can find the same kind of commentary you find in TNR just about anywhere--even at Easter Lemming of course. Now, to thrive as a political blog you need to have lots of web traffic, plus a good amount of in depth articles by people who actually know what they're talking about. You just can't get away with two page editorials and exposes anymore. See: Atlantic website, new yorker and Washington Monthly. (And to a lesser extent Greenwald and Lew Rockwell).

In the 1980s, competitors to TNR just didn't compare. National Review was just shallow. I remember subscribing to both mags, but then I just found national review to just not have enough substance to it even to want to read it. (A friend recommended American Spectator which I tried for a year, but it seemed more partisan). The Nation seemed very strident at the time, almost socialist, although perhaps the problem was simply lack of reporting.

in the last 10 years the Nation smells a lot better than it did--especially more than TNR. Also, TNR made a strategic mistake of blocking articles from Internet surfers. an understandable mistake perhaps.

The change in my reading habits has been completely away from reading about politics in print mags. This seems a natural progression because of the abundance of material already on the web. But for a good amount of time, New republic was all we had.

Gary said...

Alterman wrote some more about TNR:

On political magazines, I am more inclined to support local like The Texas Observor. Any which doesn't place most of it's content online is dying.