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The sad implosion of The New Republic

I’ve been a longtime reader of The New Republic, a small-circulation but venerable magazine of journalism and opinion.

Although staunchly liberal in its political orientation, the magazine has regularly challenged conventional wisdom on the Left– while sometimes, it seemed, being contrarian for the sake of being contrary.

Although the quality of the articles varies, it has produced enough excellent writing to make TNR one of the few publications I subscribe to in dead-tree form.

It’s been a regular source for my posts (and those of others) at Harry’s Place– as you can see here.

Now most of the magazine’s senior staff and a long list of contributing editors (including Paul Berman, Timothy Snyder and Michael Walzer) have resigned after top editors Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier quit in a dispute with management over a change in TNR’s direction.

New Republic owner Chris Hughes and newly installed CEO Guy Vidra announced Thursday they were repositioning the 100-year-old magazine to become a “vertically integrated digital media company.” They hired Gabriel Snyder, who previously ran Gawker and The Wire, and was most recently at Bloomberg Media, to be its new editor-in-chief.

There has been tension at the magazine since Vidra’s arrival over differing visions for the publication. Staffers saw management as overly focused on Web traffic at the expense of its legacy of narrative journalism and criticism.

The New Republic now seems unlikely to continue that legacy in any recognizable sense, since the majority of its longtime writers and editors have left, taking the magazine’s institutional memory with them.

It’s a real loss for American journalism and the left-of-center side of the political spectrum.