Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, 28, announced last night that he had purchased The New Republic, the 100-odd-year-old journal of liberal opinion.
The most striking piece of news here is that a man under thirty has bought one of the most important names in American letters. It’s like when Jared Kushner bought The New York Observer at 25, though somehow more jarring.
But it’s also notable that Hughes, who is not Jewish, has bought a magazine that’s been associated with Jewish interests, and with Martin Peretz, its exceptionally vocal Jewish owner, for decades.
Peretz is a onetime Harvard professor and an outspoken and often controversial voice on Jewish and Israel issues. Peretz apologized and more or less retreated from public life following a 2010 controversy over a blog post in which he wrote that he “wondered” whether Muslims were worthy of First Amendment protections.
Peretz bought The New Republic in 1974. The magazine under him has been marked by its prominent Jewish contributors, from longtime literary editor Leon Wieseltier to former editors Peter Beinart and Franklin Foer and current writers Adam Kirsch and Ruth Franklin.
Politically, it has generally been liberal on domestic issues and, particularly during the Iraq war era, hawkish on foreign policy, mirroring the baby boomer Jewish consensus.
In his message to TNR readers last night, Hughes set forward a new vision for the magazine. “In the next era of The New Republic, we will aggressively adapt to the newest information technologies without sacrificing our commitment to serious journalism,” Hughes wrote. “The New Republic has been and will remain a journal of progressive values, but it will above all aim to appeal to independent thinkers on the left and the right who search for fresh ideas and a deeper understanding of the challenges our world faces.”
Like Peretz for much of his tenure, Hughes will serve as the magazine’s editor-in-chief and its publisher. Its current editor, Richard Just, will stay on.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.