Upheaval at The New Republic as Dozens Follow Leon Wieseltier and Franklin Foer Resignations (Updated)

The owner, Facebook billionaire Chris Hughes, has mandated a new direction for the 100-year-old venerated political biweekly

Last Updated: December 5, 2014 @ 11:10 AM

UPDATED, Friday 10:22 a.m. PT

The New Republic owner Chris Hughes told TheWrap:

“I am saddened by the loss of such great talent, many of whom have played an important role in making The New Republic so successful in the past. It has been a privilege to work with them, and I wish them only the best. This is a time of transition, but I am excited to work with our team — both new and old alike — as we pave a new way forward. The singular importance of The New Republic as an institution can and will be preserved, because it’s bigger than any one of us.”

The New Republic magazine was in full upheaval Friday after a reported 45 editors joined the resignation of literary lions and top editors Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, who exited in the wake of planned changes to the venerable publication.

Foer sent the staff a memo announcing his Thursday resignation, saying that his plans and those of the owner, Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes, “meaningfully diverge.” CEO Guy Vidra similarly sent a memo announcing Foer’s replacement with digital journalist Gabriel Snyder and heralding a “reimagining” of the New Republic into “a vertically integrated digital media company.”

On the heels of a 10 a.m. ET company-wide meeting that Vidra held in the aftermath of the resignation of two of the magazine’s top staff — editor Foer and literary editor Wieseltier — a stream of editors have resigned. A running list on Twitter suggested as many as 30 had already submitted their resignations.

Leon Wiseltier from Twitter, TNR

photo from Twitter feed of resigned Managing Editor Linda Kinstler

Update: At the staff meeting, Hughes acknowledged the resignations, saying: “This is a setback. These are great journalists that we lost this morning. But we are incredibly well positioned.”

Here is his full statement to TheWrap.

Foer abruptly quit Thursday, sending a memo to staff (see below). He reportedly was at odds with the paper’s owner, Chris Hughes, the Facebook co-founder who bought the magazine in 2012 with an end game of morphing it into a “digital media company.” Foer has already been replaced by Gabriel Snyder, a former editor of The Atlantic Wire.

Vidra also sent a memo to staff, informing them the magazine will decrease its publication output to 10 issues a year, down from the current 20, and would transform into a  “a vertically integrated digital media company.” The magazine is also moving its main headquarters from Washington, D.C. back to New York City; its original headquarters 100 years ago.

The New Republic is an institution in American letters, a small but hugely influential liberal magazine of commentary on politics and the arts published since 1914. The white-maned Wiseltier is widely regarded as one of the most important intellectuals on the American literary and political landscape, as is Foer. Wiseltier had been at the magazine for 31 years.

The New Republic has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.

See Franklin Foer and Guy Vidra’s memos below.

Comrades,

The New Republic has been one of the great loves of my life-a set of ideas, a history, a collection of people I revere. I grew up here, made my best friends here, and learned so many profound lessons about the world in the process.

Part of the joy has been the struggle: We’ve fought to preserve an institution that was perpetually imperiled. It’s been hairy at moments, no doubt, but also exhilarating and immense fun. I’ve had an especially wonderful time these past two and half years. We’ve published essays and journalism that have actually, in moments, changed the world, or at least people’s opinions about the world.

I’ve always had a hard time imagining leaving here. That moment, however, has arrived. Chris and Guy have significant plans for this place. And their plans and my own vision for TNR meaningfully diverge. I’ve decided this is the right time for me to finish a book that is several years overdue and to work on a few other projects. I will miss everyone here immensely.

Much love, Frank

And Vidra:

To All Staff,

I want to share some news about forthcoming changes at The New Republic.
As you’ve heard, Frank Foer is leaving the company. We are excited to announce that Gabriel Snyder will assume the role of Editor-in-Chief. In addition, Leon Wieseltier will be moving on.

In his time here, Frank has led a meaningful expansion of our team, has done a terrific job advancing the mission of our storied institution, and has continued to insert The New Republic’s voice into the national discourse. We wish him nothing but the best and are very grateful for all he’s done.

As we move forward under Gabriel’s leadership, we are re-imagining The New Republic as a vertically integrated digital media company. Gabriel is ideally suited to bridge traditional journalism and digital media. He is committed – as am I – to The New Republic’s mission of impact, influence and persuasion, but understands that fulfilling that mission in today’s media landscape requires new forms. He truly reflects the “straddle generation” of journalists and editors who remain deeply rooted in the qualities of traditional journalism – having worked with brands such as the New York Observer and The Atlantic – but also understands what it takes to create content that will travel across all platforms. We believe he is the right person to help us to maintain the core DNA of The New Republic, while propelling us forward to the 21st century.

Leon has made an unsurpassed contribution to The New Republic over the last 30 years, and the qualities that he represents are the beating heart of this brand. He is quite frankly an institution unto himself whose indelible mark on this place will never go away.
As we restructure The New Republic, we will be making significant investments in creating a more effective and efficient newsroom as well as improved products across all platforms. This will require a recalibration of our resources in order to deliver the best product possible. In order to do so, we’ve made the decision to reduce the frequency of our print publication from 20 to 10 issues a year and will be making improvements to the magazine itself.

Given the frequency reduction, we will also be making some changes to staff structure. This is not a decision we make lightly, but we believe this restructuring is critical to the long-term success of the company. We will be holding an all-hands meeting tomorrow to help answer any questions or concerns you may have.

And lastly – as some of you may know – we will be moving to a newly re-designed, expanded office in New York’s Union Square. New York was the original home of The New Republic, and we’re thrilled to further expand our presence here.

These are exciting times for our company which will demand change. We are committed to the roots of this magazine – an experiment in opinion to help address the challenges of our time. We can only do this together.
Guy