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People are really hatin’ on Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes right now, because he is attempting to change a liberal institution of political/artsy/elitist journalism. So what’s up? Well, he’s making significant editorial changes to The New Republic.

We here at V+CO will reserve our judgment until we see how things play out. Look, our world is changing. Media companies of all sorts must go through a constant evolution in order to keep up, and stay relevant and profitable. Without inside information, it’s difficult to predict the precise outcome of Hughes’ modifications. But here’s the observed fallout, nonetheless…

On Thursday, it was announced that Gabriel Snyder would replace Franklin Foer as editor of The New Republic.

Franklin Foer, by the way, is the older brother of Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote the novel “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” which was later adapted into a Tom Hanks-starring, family adventure film about 9/11. Yeah, so, um, no comment there. Incidentally, however, here’s an Urban Dictionary article on the concept of "tragicrafting."

But we digress.

Shortly after the magazine’s 100th anniversary, transformative plans were revealed, with a stated objective to turn The New Republic into a “vertically integrated digital media company,” whatever that is. But whatever it in fact is, the folks at The New Republic did not take kindly to the editor switcheroo.

Numerous contributing editors all chose to resign, simultaneously. And how did they express their disdain over the fact that the magazine was being turned into some newfangled digital thingy? Well, via Twitter, of course…

Here’s one sample outrage tweet: “Dear @TNR and @chrishughes, please immediately remove me from your masthead as a Contributing Editor. http://www.newrepublic.com/page/masthead

There appears to be concern that under this new creative direction, The New Republic will become too page view hungry, too obsessed with empty metrics and excessive talk of branding.

Jonathan Chait, one of the resigning editors, explained his discontentment in “A Eulogy for the New Republic,” which was published in New York Magazine.

He writes: “Frank Foer isn’t leaving TNR because he wasn’t a good enough editor. He’s leaving because Chris Hughes is not a good enough owner.”

Ouch.

He further explained: “I expect the circumstances surrounding TNR’s transformation will be framed as a matter of modernity versus tradition. There is certainly an element of this. At the magazine’s 100th anniversary gala two weeks ago, where Hughes, Foer, Wieseltier, and Hughes’s new CEO, Guy Vidra, all spoke, the speeches took a sharply, awkwardly divergent tone. Foer and Weiseltier gave soaring paeans to the magazine’s immense role in shaping American liberal thought. Hughes and Vidra used words like brand and boasted about page views, giving no sense of appreciation at all for the magazine’s place in American life. In a comic moment, Vidra mispronounced Foer’s name.”

Chait insists that the owner and CEO are both “afflicted with the belief that they can copy the formula that transformed the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed into economic successes.”

Basically, there seems to be a fundamental disagreement over what the magazine represents. In Chait’s viewpoint, The New Republic “is and always has been a magazine of politics and culture pitched at a high intellectual level, which necessarily limits its appeal to a slice of the public too small to be financially viable.”

An article over on Slate claims that these staff changes “expose the fault lines of modern journalism,” because the new, Hughes-appointed editor “hails from the whiplash world of reactive Web journalism—not the staid, chin-stroky milieu of a century-old journal of opinion.”

We here at V+CO are not going to take any sides on this one, but we did vomit a little bit at the complete pretentiousness inherent in that “culture pitched at a high intellectual level” bit. It wasn’t a tremendous amount of vomit, but there was some legitimate expulsion of partially digested food, prompted entirely by the unapologetic elitism. That being said, apparently Hughes did hire Foer’s replacement before officially firing Foer, and Foer became aware of this through the rumor mill, which must have been quite embarrassing. So it sounds like this is just nasty all over.


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