THE NEW LEADER: RIP

Victor Navasky writes: Carey McWilliams, the late, great editor of The Nation, used to say that to many of its readers the magazine was a lantern in the dark. That is probably true for other journals of opinion–even those with whom we have had our deep differences, like The New Leader, whose editor, Myron Kolatch, announced recently that it was going out of business. Originally founded in 1924 by Norman Thomas as an organ of the Socialist Party, it went its own way after a bitter ideological split. Arguably it has been drifting rightward, except in the area of cultural coverage, ever since; at one point it even dined at the CIA trough. Which is not to say that over the years it did not publish valuable articles, including those by communist dissidents like Milovan Djilas and by a dazzling array of contributors, many of whom also wrote for The Nation, including Robert Lekachman, Reinhold Niebuhr and James Baldwin. Ironically, when in 1955 Freda Kirchwey invited McWilliams to replace her as Nation editor, he agreed on one condition–that she drop the magazine’s libel suit against The New Leader. (When The New Leader ran a letter to the editor from The Nation‘s former art critic Clement Greenberg, accusing its foreign editor, Julio Álvarez del Vayo, of being a party-line Stalinist, del Vayo wanted to “punch him in the nose,” but Kirchwey chose instead to sue for libel.) Kirchwey dropped the suit, and we’re glad she did. As Yale law professor Thomas Emerson wrote at the time, “Resort to the courts cut off further argument and, in effect, brought a breakdown in the rational exchange of ideas.” We regret that The New Leader‘s light has gone out, and we will miss the exchange of ideas that, at its best, it helped nourish.

NATION NOTES

Naomi Klein is taking a leave from her “Lookout” column until the fall, while she tends to her book on disaster capitalism. Gary Younge, the Alfred Knobler Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute, will be writing a monthly column in her place titled “Beneath the Radar” (see page 10). Younge, the New York correspondent for the Guardian, is the author of No Place Like Home: A Black Briton’s Journey Through the Deep South (Mississippi) and the forthcoming Stranger in a Strange Land: Travels in the Disunited States (New Press). • With this issue Betsy Reed, who has been a senior editor at the magazine since 1998 and has edited special issues on music, marriage and torture, assumes the role of executive editor.