Inside the Collapse

Inside the Collapse of The New Republic by Ryan Lizza. newyorker


I spent nine years at The New Republic, from 1998 to 2007, before I joined The New Yorker. Franklin Foer is a close friend, and I know almost every individual involved in this story, including Hughes, who last year made me an offer to return to T.N.R.

This account is based on internal e-mails, recordings of meetings, contemporaneous notes, and conversations with about two dozen people, most of whom would not speak for attribution. On Sunday night, I interviewed Hughes for forty minutes.

Despite the initial turbulence, most writers and editors agree that Hughes’s early days running the magazine with Foer were among the best periods to work at T.N.R.

The editors were hardly opposed to giving greater attention to digital media, but they came to believe that Hughes was losing interest in the actual content of T.N.R.’s journalism and cultural criticism.

After speaking with Hughes, Foer walked into Wieseltier’s office and told him that he was resigning immediately. Wieseltier, who had survived numerous changes in editor, told Foer that he would quit with him.

After a few days, I began to hear some sympathy for Hughes, as staffers reminisced about the romantic period of his first two years as owner. Some former staffers felt bad for him. “There is something tragic about it,” one said.


I was a regular reader of TNR in the '80s. I appreciated the physical format: weekly, thin, folds nicely, articles continued on consecutive pages, modest ads for interesting things all in the back. I knew it unprofitable.

I came to know the regular contributors and appreciated the degree that they would challenge my understanding of the world. I eventually dropped it for Science. I grew tired of their coverage of Israel and election year politics.

I used TNR writing as a vocabulary builder. I read it with a dictionary on my lap. I remember two frequent words for which the dictionary provided unsatisfactory definitions. Panglossian and Machiavellian. I had to read the books.

I modeled the writing style of the original wiki on the letters to the editor of The New Republic. Direct, relevant, personal, articulate. When authors brought idioms from NetNews I rewrote their posts. Posts were to be signed at the end placing the thoughts before the thinker.