On the Sad Collapse of the New Republic [UPDATED]

By Jack Goldsmith
Thursday, December 4, 2014, 6:21 PM

I’ve read the New Republic since college.  And I’ve read book reviews in the “back of the book,” edited by Leon Wieseltier, most devotedly.  I have always loved the books he chose and the reviews he edited.  Through many different styles of Editor-in-Chief and other upheavals at the magazine over the years, Leon’s book reviews were a constant: a broad array of excellent books, reviewed accessibly and at length by great writers with intelligence and insight and, often, with the contrarian flair that Leon embodied.  This is a little embarrassing, but it is true: I cannot think of anything that has brought me greater honor or happiness as a writer than to be asked by Leon asked to write reviews for TNR.

It is thus with sadness that I read that Leon and TNR’s Editor-in-Chief, Frank Foer, resigned amidst a shake-up at the magazine by the new-ish owner, Chris Hughes.  I’m not sad because I won’t be writing reviews for TNR anymore.  (If anything, I am glad about that, at least in the short term, as I had a review looming that I was very behind on and not enjoying.)  But I am sad because book reviews are a dying art, Leon’s were the best, and now the back-of-the-book is certainly dead forever – probably along with the magazine as we knew it, which Hughes is moving to New York, cutting to ten issues per year, and turning in to a “vertically integrated digital media company.”  As Jeffrey Goldberg noted, “Frank Foer and Leon Wieseltier are supremely talented and will be fine.  It’s The New Republic that’s in desperate trouble.” (Jonathan Chait has a Eulogy.)

Ryan Lizza asked on Twitter to be removed from the TNR masthead as Contributing Editor.  I am a Contributing Editor too.  But I have never been sure why I am a Contributing Editor, or what it signifies.  As far as I can tell, the designation carries no duties or rewards (other than being on the list).  So it seems a little silly to “resign.” I am quite sure that my name will disappear from the masthead without my intervention.

UPDATE: It seemed silly to "resign," for reasons stated above, but I obviously have no interest in even a nominal association with the new regime.  So when asked last night, I included my name on this statement, which I understand was sent to Chris Hughes this morning:  "We are contributing editors of the New Republic, and our commitment to the venerable principles of the magazine requires us now to resign.  Please remove our names from the masthead."