In a memo to staff yesterday announcing a masthead shake-up, New Republic chief executive Guy Vidra wrote that a reduction in the frequency of the 100-year-old magazine would require a staff “restructuring,” a common euphemism for layoffs. Well, that may not be necessary considering that a whole herd of staffers resigned en masse following the defenestration of top editor Franklin Foer and longtime literary editor Leon Wieseltier. Have a look at the departures.
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) December 5, 2014
Now compare that to the New Republic masthead.
Perhaps the “restructuring” will now come in the form of a hiring spree to fill vacancies created by the newsroom-wide disgust with Foer’s firing. A group of staffers met at Foer’s house last night for a New Republic “wake.” Apparently the resolve for a mass show of force, rumored yesterday, stiffened overnight.
Yesterday’s memo from Vidra promised an “all-hands meeting … to help answer any questions or concerns you may have.”
Okay, but the executives in that meeting, Vidra and Publisher Chris Hughes, didn’t take any questions from staffers, according to an informed source. Instead, Vidra and Hughes made some remarks and then adjourned the session so that management could get to the business of publishing the next print edition of the New Republic — perhaps quite a task in light of the mass-bolting.
Reading from notes on his laptop, Vidra reportedly sought to assure the (remaining) staff that the publication wasn’t “becoming BuzzFeed.” It’s not planning to jump into the listicle game or pursue breaking news tidbits or promote clickbait or game Facebook’s algorithm, according to a source who attended the session. Nor would the New Republic abandon its long-form heritage, insisted Vidra, but would rather conceive its big pieces with digital considerations from the start of the process. Media maven Jay Rosen tweeted about that strategy:
@ErikWemple Nothing wrong with that.
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) December 5, 2014
Correct: Even legacy newspapers long ago realized the importance of roping in webbies in the early stages of planning for big stories.
In addressing his suddenly diminished publication, Hughes noted that he was “broken up” about the mass departure, voiced respect for the New Republic’s history, and stressed the centrality of profitability to the magazine’s future. “He was saying that the healthiest thing for TNR is for it to become profitable,” says the source. What a change that would be: Anne Peretz, the wife of former New Republic owner Marty Peretz, told the New York Times, “We just didn’t have the $3 million a year to spend any more,” Anne Peretz says.
I am saddened by the loss of such great talent @tnr, many of whom have played an important role in making The New Republic so successful /1
— Chris Hughes (@chrishughes) December 5, 2014