Did The Internet Kill the New Republic?
The New Republic is dead or dying at 100. That is if Jonathan Chait is to believed. The big news today are the resignations of editor Franklin Foer, long-time literary editor Leon Wieseltier, and several former staff members asking to be removed from the Masthead as contributing editors. Gawker is being Gawker and treating this with absolute trolling sarcasm as only Gawker can.
I didn’t always agree with the New Republic but I did like it. I liked that they were resolutely dedicated to long form journalism that wanted to write about subjects and topics in pages instead of paragraphs. I liked that their culture section generally remained dedicated to stuff that normally did not get much press coverage including history books that go beyond “Weren’t we just darn great during The American Revolution and WWII?” I suppose I should disclose that I’ve been watching BBC documentaries on youtube for the past few months and wondering why the United States can’t have stuff like Mary Beard’s excellent Meet the Romans or this documentary on the Art of the French Revolution. Though I’ve also been wondering if actual British people like these documentaries or if they are just for weirdos like me.
According to Chait, the new owners of the New Republic have been trying to turn it into another Buzzfeed with empty business cliches and slogans like “we’re a tech company now.” The problem with trying to be Buzzfeed is that Buzzfeed is already Buzzfeed. One of the great oddities or not of viral media is that multiple companies release the same content and even have somewhat different names. To be fair to Chris Hughes, I do like a lot of the stuff that the New Republic has done since he purchased it. I don’t want to see it turn to a Buzzfeed Listicle land and have 300 million dollar bang-wow movies reviewed instead of smaller features.
The good thing about the Internet is that it creates national and global audiences. The bad thing about the Internet is that it creates national and global audiences. It is for a publication to justify covering local culture and politics when it could potentially have a readership that goes across the globe. Why talk a local museum exhibit or a performance by a local dance company if only a small number of your readership is going to see it? The New Republic often tried to cover local culture on a national and international scale by talking about a dance performance in New York, a new building in Chicago, and something at the Tate but this also seems to alienate most of an Internet readership. On-Line Journalism seems to have solved the culture problem by only talking about stuff that has wide-spread release. Maybe Girls is only watched by a million people but theoretically it can be watched by tens or hundreds of millions of people, more if you expand to international distribution.
I also think there is something strangely generational where the culture writers of my generation and younger are very capable about writing on nostaligic pop culture and current pop culture but potentially not stuff with less than mainstream releases. Think Progress dedicated their culture coverage almost entirely to extremely accessible (if with a geeky bent) popular stuff over anything somewhat off the beaten path with Alyssa Rosenberg.
What say you OT? Am I onto something or being completely bonkers? Both? Does the Internet just make it really easy to talk about TV and not worth it to talk about the Bushwick Starr or Cutting Ball? Is everyone going to try for Buzzfeed and Upworthy?
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