Friday, March 6, 2009

The Old New Republic Redux?

The New Republic magazine, the nearly century-old liberal (and occasionally conservative) political journal from Washington, D.C., may be getting another new owner, just a few years after being acquired by its current, er, new owner. And the new owner might turn out to be an old owner, reports Folio:.

Martin Peretz was the owner when I became a disciple of the magazine in the early 1980s. A friend of the family gave me a subscription (first issue featured the Soviet downing of the Korean airliner), and I remained a loyal subscriber for most of the decade. My devotion waned when the magazine went through some journalism problems (i.e., accusations of bad reporting practices by some of its younger reporters) and the magazine seemed to shrug them off. TNR has always been a little bit too nice to the people it's pals with (friends, former students, etc.). But I still kept up with it from time to time, finally giving up when an editor was reportedly let go because he didn't support the presidential candidacy of Peretz pal Al Gore. (That was the story at the time.)

Wrote Robin Pogrebin in The New York Times in Sept. 6, 1997, when editor Michael Kelly was fired (the "TRB" to which Kelly refers is the magazine's Washington political column):

Mr. Peretz has a well-known friendship with Vice President Gore, who was a student of his at Harvard University. In light of that, Mr. Kelly said, Mr. Peretz was concerned that the magazine's continued negative coverage would hurt Mr. Gore's Presidential prospects.

''I think that he probably saw that I was going to continue writing TRB's on the soft-money scandals, since I had made something of a cause out of it,'' Mr. Kelly said. ''And he made it clear to me that he didn't like that, and that is a subject area that is obviously increasingly involving Al Gore.''

Mr. Peretz, however, said Mr. Gore was not his primary concern. ''I anticipated having differences with Kelly about Gore,'' he said. ''But that wasn't the reason I asked him to leave.''

Kelly, of course, went on to revitalize The Atlantic Monthly before he was killed while covering the Iraq War.

So if the story about Peretz's intentions to repurchase his old magazine come true, what can we expect? Probably not much. He has remained editor-in-chief of the publication under its current owners. But we'll probably continue to get some juicy journalistic melodrama from the magazine, if the past is any indication.

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