In an appearance today on MSNBC, National Review writer Charles C.W. Cooke was asked about those Trump criticisms. “We’ve been dying for 60 years and done pretty well on our deathbed,” said Cooke.
That’s about right. Since its founding in 1955 by William F. Buckley, National Review has always been an opinion journal. And as we just wrote about another opinion journal — the New Republic — these entities tend to run on a business model of losses and subsidies from deep-pocketed people who care about journalism. “Never did National Review throughout the Buckley years or any popular journal of political opinion . . . never did any of them become financially self-sufficient,” says Carl T. Bogus, a biographer of Buckley.
Rich Lowry, National Journal’s editor, referenced this point in a 2009 appeal for contributions to the magazine: “Every time one of these fundraising drives comes around, I recall Bill Buckley’s axiom that National Review exists to make a point, not a profit. Sadly, those words have continued to hold across the decades. Opinion magazines just don’t make money, and we’ve never been owned by a media mogul (or a mogul of any sort for that matter).”
Contrary to what Trump alleged above, the late, great William F. Buckley would find the contemporary financial predicament of National Review familiar. As Bogus noted in his Buckley book, the early years of National Review relied on a $100,000 contribution from the founder’s father, along with assistance from other folks. “To Bill, going hat in hand to potential supporters was distasteful. He did not then realize that this was going to be a never-ending responsibility,” writes Bogus, noting that Buckley, as a “laissez-faire conservative,” expected the enterprise to be profitable. “But even after becoming the most successful journal of opinion in history, National Review would still have to go begging for contributions.”
The magazine last year became a nonprofit organization so that its contributors could enjoy the tax benefits of their generosity. No shame there — it’s the same model that other opinion journals have followed. Other failing, pathetic, money-losing opinion journals, that is.