After years of turmoil, The New Republic is changing hands.
Chris Hughes, the 32-year-old Facebook co-founder who bought the magazine in 2012 and precipitated the greatest staff exodus in the magazine’s 100-year history, announced Friday that he had sold the business.
The buyer is Win McCormack, the Oregon-based publisher and editor-in-chief of the Tin House quarterly and Tin House Books.
Hamilton Fish, the longtime publisher of The Nation, will serve as the magazine’s publisher and editorial director, overseeing day to day operations at The New Republic. His appointment suggests that McCormack intends to uphold The New Republic’s reputation as a bulwark of progressive journalism.
“The New Republic was founded in 1914 as the organ of a modernized liberalism and then-dominant Progressive Movement, and has remained true to its founding principles, under all its multiple owners, ever since,” McCormack said in a statement. “We intend to continue in that same tradition, preserving the journal as an important voice in a new debate over how the basic principles of liberalism can be reworked to meet the equally demanding challenges of our era.”
Hughes, who announced his decision to sell the magazine earlier this year, said it had been his goal “to find the right steward to ensure that TNR continues to be impactful and relevant.”
“I had many conversations with qualified candidates, and of those I ultimately concluded that Win McCormack and Ham Fish are those stewards,” he said. “Their backgrounds in journalism and progressive politics make them uniquely qualified to lead such a historic institution. I look forward to watching their progress over the years to come.”
Hughes own tenure as owner of the magazine was a disappointment. He bought The New Republic for an undisclosed sum — sources with knowledge of the deal have put the figure at $2.1 million — and then invested over $20 million in trying unsuccessfully to rebrand it as a “digital media company.” Last year, traffic to the site declined by nearly 40%, according to comScore.
More significantly, Hughes was responsible for a mass staff exodus that gutted the magazine of its editorial strength. In 2014, both editor-in-chief Franklin Foer and literary editor Leon Wieseltier resigned amid disagreements with Hughes and his CEO. Days later, the majority of The New Republic’s masthead resigned en masse. In the days that followed, Hughes received widespread condemnation from politicians and journalists in Washington, many of whom pledged to cancel their subscriptions to the magazine.
Despite the humiliation brought on by this move, Hughes defended his efforts.
“I didn’t buy the New Republic to be the conservator of a small print magazine whose long-term influence and survival were at risk,” Hughes wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post following the staff exodus. “I came to protect the future of the New Republic by creating a sustainable business so that our journalism, values and voice — the things that make us singular — could survive.”
The magazine will survive, for a while longer at least, under McCormack and Fish.
McCormack was founder and editor-in-chief of Oregon Magazine from 1976-1988, and has also served on the Boards of Military History Quarterly, Art and Auction magazine, and New Perspectives Quarterly.
Fish, a key leader at The Nation, has most recently served as Publisher of The Washington Spectator, and a consultant at The Baffler. He also serves as the chair of the Board of Visitors of the School of Global Journalism and Communications at Morgan State University.