What Bill Kristol stepping aside at The Weekly Standard really means
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When Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard magazine arrived at newsstands and made its initial impact, there were, well, newsstands.
You remember newsstands, right? Not the ones with $20 T-shirts, small bottles of Tylenol, Chinese-made snow globes and cheap refrigerator magnets at airports?
Kristol, the child of an intellectual hothouse on New York's Upper West Side, will now step out of the direct line of fire after 21 notable years at the helm. You'll still see him as a contrarian TV analyst and, his unstinting (and often somewhat wayward) predictions aside, he'll be engaged in public debate as the very Republican candidate he reviled now enters the Oval Office.
But he'll become editor-at-large and leave the heavy lifting to Steve Hayes and Richard Starr. Like their print and digital counterparts everywhere, they'll be left with the inherent uncertainty of fragmented marketplaces.
Kristol's proudest achievement, he says, is "hiring and (modestly) helping colleagues who's gone on to do good things, ranging from David Brooks to Matt Continetti to, in fact, Steve Hayes."
Well, he's done a good bit more, though I may be slightest biased (we were chums growing up and even co-edited publications together during our school days). As Rich Lowry, editor of The National Review, the king of the conservative hill not long ago, says, "It's extremely rare for anyone to create a media institution out of nothing and that's what Bill did. The media environment has vastly changed in 20 years, but the Standard remains lively and very influential."
"Bill Kristol did the impossible, creating an influential public affairs magazine in an internet age and running it for two decades. He goes out a winner," says Jim Glassman, a former publisher of The New Republic and editor of Roll Call.
Nick Gillespie, former editor of libertarian Reason, reminds that Kristol had a ton of top-notch help (like Fred Barnes and John Podhoretz) when The Weekly Standard rose — during an era when book superstores, and people actually reading magazines in them, suggested a strong and growing literary culture. Oops.
It "immediately made a difference in the right of center landscape. National Review was spending most of its time drearily attacking immigration despite (because of?) being edited by the Brit John O'Sullivan and The American Spectator (remember them?) was accusing the Clintons of every real and imaginary crime in the book (seriously, they wrote a story about how Hillary claimed charitable donations on Bill's old underwear)," remembers Gillespie.
But in what Gillespie tags "Clinton Derangement Syndrome,' Kristol and proteges such as Brooks pushed the notion of "national greatness" conservatism "when they weren't drafting future-apostate David Frum into attacking ascendant libertarians as the one real enemy of America, or making sad-sack 'cases for censorship' just as the internet succeeded in making porn just a touchpad away."
National Review, the magazine child of William F. Buckley Jr, may have channeled Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, but The Weekly Standard beckoned the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt and demanded that the right think big via major projects like the Hoover Dam, space exploration and, perhaps most of all, the use of military force in nearly any spot they thought we could bring democracy.
It had impact on that score, though not necessarily good. Whether Kosovo, Afghanistan or Iraq, it banged the drums for intervention. And, some would argue, goaded the U.S. to get involved in three spots. As the expansion Miami Marlins won two World Series, the Weekly Standard punched well above its weight.
Competitively, it fumbled with the new online world, sticking its top players (such as Andrew Ferguson, Christopher Caldwell and Matt Labash) behind a paywall "that took longer to tear down than the Berlin Wall," as Gillespie puts it.
Some conservatives blanched as it defended expansions of domestic and foreign power (No Child Left Behind, deficit spending, Dick Cheney, torture) that didn't merit the slightest defense. To a younger generation, my old friend was a graying eminence, regardless of his being a TV booker's dream in being available, unbowed and quotable — all the more so as he took an anybody-but-Trump tack and got nowhere with pushing an unknown candidate, writer David French.
But he deserves real credit for passing the baton to a younger group. And for now giving himself time to potentially do the sort of bigger, longer work that is more associated with his late dad, Irving, and the smartest member of the Kristol clan, his mom, the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb.
"Weekly magazines don't make sense any more in a post-print age (maybe no magazines do)," concedes Gillespie. "But it will actually be interesting to see what Kristol can do now that he is free not only of the need to explain away Republican Party hypocrisies but also make sure the printer gets a big fat Adobe file every week without fail."
As for the media future, Kristol himself says, "I suspect we're only part way — maybe not even most of the way — through the internet/mobile device/social media revolution. So it's hard for me to judge. But for all the changes, I think some people overdo their effect: Real news and good analysis still matter most. I think..."
Joe Nocera leaves for Bloomberg because...
Joe Nocera is leaving The New York Times for Bloomberg's strong View section overseen by former Times op-ed editor David Shipley. (Bloomberg) He's been in sports of late after a career of mostly doing great financial reporting and editing, recently co-authoring a fine book on the inept, dictatorial NCAA with The Times' Ben Strauss. (Poynter)
Why the move? Nocera says he yearned to get back to business reporting, all the more so with the new administration about to take over, and that Bloomberg gives him the kind of perch that The Times no longer did.
Trump's tech summit
Here's ever-understated Kara Swisher in Recode:
"Here’s what I am sure they said out loud about the Wednesday meeting, which will include Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Google CEO Larry Page and perhaps Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, along with other big names from Intel, Oracle, Cisco, IBM and more: 'When the president-elect asks us to a meeting, we are duty-bound as American citizens to attend and reach across any chasm of difference for the good of our country.'" (Recode)
"But here’s what I imagine the thought bubble in their head read: “Fuckfuckfuck — now I have to become a reality show star in a new episode of ‘The Apprentice: Nerd Edition,’ bowing and scraping to that luddite Trump, who will probably simultaneously berate us in person and bully us on Twitter later with a lot of poop emoticons.'"
Teen Vogue strikes a chord
"On Saturday morning, Teen Vogue published an op-ed by Lauren Duca titled 'Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America.' The tone and message of the piece, which compared the ways in which the president-elect talks about his record to the ways abusive spouses psychologically manipulate their partners, struck a notable chord with readers on social media, garnering almost 30,000 retweets from Teen Vogue’s account, and getting shared by personalities from Patton Oswalt to Dan Rather." (The Atlantic)
Some are surprised that, well, Teen Vogue is dealing with social issues! Alas, they shouldn't. "The pivot in editorial strategy has drawn praise on social media, with some writers commenting that Teen Vogue is doing a better job of covering important stories in 2016 than legacy news publications." It might well be really smart from a financial perspective, capitalizing on the numbers of smart young folks who really are into politics and policy, not just One Direction or J. Cole.
While Trump badmouths the press here...
"Turkey's unprecedented crackdown on media brought the total number of jailed journalists worldwide to the highest number since the Committee to Protect Journalists began taking an annual census in 1990." (CPJ)
"As of Dec. 1, 2016, there were 259 journalists in jail around the world. Turkey had at least 81 journalists behind bars, according to CPJ's records, the highest number in any one country at a time-and every one of them faces anti-state charges. Dozens of other journalists are imprisoned in Turkey, but CPJ was unable to confirm a direct link to their work."
Sharp analysis on Facebook's advertising woes
This take comes from an emailed report by Brian Wieser, a respected financial analyst in the media and advertising space: "New Facebook measurement errors were disclosed on Friday. While we are not altering any operating expectations because of the revelation, we think the news will contribute to advertiser demands that Facebook open up more of its data to third parties (although few such demands are likely to be met)."
Viacom in bigger trouble
Creaky mogul Sumner Redstone pulled his support of a Viacom-CBS merger amid the current media survival mantra of bigger-is-better.
"As talks between Viacom and CBS come to an end, it is Viacom that will struggle to strengthen its standalone business." (Wall Street Journal) A week ago, Vice Media founder Shane Smith predicted to me that Viacom would ultimately "implode." And that was before this turn of events.
Hello, Jerusalem. Goodbye, Jerusalem
Shoot, I'd just emailed them in Israel! But only a few months after arriving in Jerusalem for The New York Times, Peter Baker is returning to the White House for the paper. His wife, Susan Glasser, who'd left her post as Politico's editor, will do work for Politico from the capital. It's good to know a few outlets still pay moving expenses.
Meanwhile, the rich will get richer as Politico's Glenn Thrush moves to the Times' White House army. (Poynter)
Anti-Trump fervor in the academy
In Time, University of Chicago constitutional law expert Geoffrey Stone argues — even some die hard Clinton supporters will wince — that our Founding Fathers would not want the members of the Electoral College to automatically cast the majority of their votes for Trump when they convene next week.
"If they do not award the presidency to Donald Trump, they will of course be condemned by Trump and his supporters and accused by them of destroying our democracy. That will be ugly. But this is where John F. Kennedy and "Profiles in Courage" enters the picture. If this is the right outcome, then our electors must fearlessly and courageously do right by our nation. That is their constitutional responsibility. If they fulfill that responsibility, they will not be 'faithless' electors, but faithful ones. Our nation will be proud of their courage, their sense of responsibility, and their integrity, and they will have fulfilled the most fundamental vision of our Founders." (Time)
Here's one The Washington Post missed
Atop the West Fargo, North Dakota Pioneer: "The West Fargo Public Library's mitten tree is up and can be decorated with child-size gloves, mittens, scarves and hats by the public." (Pioneer)
"Grand Central Publishing president and publisher Jamie Raab and Deb Futter, vp and editor-in-chief of hardcovers at GCP and publisher of Twelve Books, will both leave the company at the end of January, according to a letter from Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch to the company." (Publishers Weekly)
Raab will leave GCP after 30 years with the company and 18 years as its publisher. Raab has overseen changes at the publisher including the division rebranding after Hachette Livre's acquisition of the Time Warner Book Group and the launch of Twelve Books, and has been both editor and publisher for authors including Sandra Brown, Stephen Colbert, Nelson DeMille, Amy Sedaris, Nicholas Sparks and Jon Stewart.
"Fox & Friends" is following the Trump victory tour and was breakfasting at Johnny V's in West Allis, Wisconsin, whose offerings include "the king of Johnny V's," namely 10 eggs, eight pancakes, hash browns, three bacon, three sausage, ham and Texas toast. Eat it all in an hour and it's free. The website says it's $18.99. But, hey, that same order would bankrupt you in Manhattan (forget the freshly squeezed O.J.).
Back in New York, the regular crew was downplaying claims of Russian hacking amid "the overwhelming electoral victory by Donald Trump," while competitors were punditizing over Secretary of State pick Rex Tillerson. CNN's "New Day" co-host Chris Cuomo said, yes, there are some critics, even Republicans, but the odds of defeating the nomination are small.
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" rolled its eyes over the "false flag" comments of John Bolton, who now denies he implied the Obama administration itself carried out the election hackings. Joe Scarborough alluded to Tillerson's support from James Baker, the Secretary of State under President George Bush, and Robert M. Gates, the former Secretary of Defense. (The New York Times)