Tuesday, December 9, 2014

So long, New Republic

I can’t remember the last time I cancelled a magazine subscription. Readers sometimes cancel because they’re angry. I cancelled a lifetime connection today when I asked The New Republic to erase my mailing label and send me a refund. I was paid up until July 2016.

You’ve probably read about management decisions which led the editor and staff to resign. It was one of my comfort magazines for 60 or 70 years, predating the comfort food industry by a generation. Atlantic and Harper’s are still in my mailbox regularly. The New Yorker remains one of my favorites, but magazines do change with the times. When I was 10 or 11 years old The Reader’s Digest was sold in my school. the price was 15 cents and there were no ads. A few years after that the Wallaces, husband and wife founders of the Digest, invited me to lunch at their Pleasantville, N.Y., offices.  I went to work for them, but moved on before later managers added advertising and a more impersonal corporate atmosphere.

My favorite New Republic column was ascribed to a journalist with initials, T.R.B., but no name.  During my Hawaii years the writer was Richard Strout, and I felt like a lottery winner when one day he was in town and called on me for help . I wrote a Sunday column of foreign news and comment. Stout had never heard of me, but he spotted my byline and I happily provided whatever he needed. He was happy, too, and invited me to call on him next time I’d be in Washington. We were both members of the National Press Club, so it would be simple to meet.

Soon after that I became director and editor-in-chief of the National Catholic News Service, now known as CNS, just a short walk from the National Press Club. I got in touch with my pal, but when he heard about my new job he backed off. Journalists are not immune to religious concerns, and it seemed to me that Catholics were not his favorite journalists. But he had the convictions and assurance of a towering journalist whose opinions were highly valued, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, who graduated from Harvard six years before I was born. He wrote for The Christian Science Monitor for 60 years, and for The New Republic for about 40 of those years. At age 92 he died at Georgetown University Medical Center.

He was one of my favorites, and not just because he was an FDR enthusiast. At least he was spared the apparent vaporization of much of the spirit he knew at The New Republic.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'll have to read up on what happened, but changes at newspapers and magazines are the rule these days, and rarely for the better it seems.