'Free of Party Ideology or Partisan Bias'
Ann Althouse, who presumably fits the demographic of TNR's center-left target audience, is skeptical of Hughes' new approach:
Here's a HuffPo article from last March about Hughes's purchase of TNR, noting that he was "a key player in President Obama's online organizing efforts in 2008." Why would we expect this man — who's only 29, by the way — to strive to be free of party ideology or partisan bias? I've got to assume the striving is toward seeming to be free of party ideology and partisan bias, because that's what journalists always say they are doing when they have ideological and partisan goals.
Based on that interview with Obama, I'd say Hughes is not striving that hard or he's not good at what he's striving to do or — most likely — he only wants to appeal to Democrats, so he only wants to do enough to seem to be free of party ideology and partisan bias to Democrats. Is this enough to make our target audience feel good about the nourishment they're getting from this source? The good feeling is some combination of seeming like professional journalism while satisfying their emotional needs that are intertwined their political ideology and love of party.
Back in 2009, after Newsweek decided to leave the weekly news business and transform itself into a version of the New Republic that you could browse in the checkout line at Safeway, Andrew Ferguson famously asked in the Weekly Standard, "Are there really 1.5 million magazine readers -- the number of subscribers Jon has promised advertisers -- who want a liberal opinion magazine written by liberals who don't want to admit they're liberals? Last week everybody looked at one another and pondered a world without Newsweek."
The New Republic's subscriber base is much smaller than Newsweek's before the lights went out (the New York Times claimed yesterday that TNR had 44,177 subscribers, with an additional 1,700 or so of newsstand sales for each issue). But do TNR readers also want to pretend that they're reading a magazine that's "free of party ideology or partisan bias"?
Perhaps they do: conservatives and libertarians are almost invariably happy to openly describe themselves as conservatives and libertarians; the left wants to believe that from the top down, they're completely free of ideology and partisanship. They're simply "pragmatic," as Jonah notes, favoring FDR-inspired "bold experimentation" -- all the while building a philosophy in which no portion of life is untrammeled by politics (because the personal is political is personal is political, ad infinitum). Liberal newspaper and broadcast journalists have played this game for 80 years or so -- and continue to do so; they think the "I have no idea what my/what my colleague's ideology is" claim is a selling point.
Evidently it is, as far as many liberal readers are concerned.
Update 1/29/13 11:53 AM PST): Given that the new New Republic is now promising to be "free of party ideology or partisan bias," presumably, it recently installed a much more finely-honed office-wide BS detector than it was using in the past, right?
No, of course not: "Oops! The New Republic tweets parody site ‘proof’ of Obama shooting skeet, quickly deletes." (Two guesses as to which of his favorite pastimes Obama was engaged in, when he was photoshopped holding a shotgun.)
As Ace writes, "TNR's goof here (apparently duplicated by the brain trust at Buzzfeed) is superficially laughable -- until you realize the mindset that produced it (and will continue to produce the same error until the end of time itself) is no laughing matter at all."
Read the whole thing.