Passing the Torch
Katrina vanden Heuvel, who has served as editor of The Nation since 1995, has been named the magazine's publisher and general partner. She succeeds Victor Navasky, who came to the magazine in 1978 as editor and became publisher and general partner in 1995.
Vanden Heuvel is the latest in a long line of Nation publisher-owners, from Freda Kirchwey in the 1930s and 1940s and Oswald Garrison Villard, who took over from his father in 1918, to Navasky. She is currently the only female editor-publisher of an American political weekly.
She takes Navasky's place at the helm of The Nation LP, a limited partnership composed of more than 160 investors. Navasky now becomes publisher emeritus and a member of the magazine's editorial board, and continues to be one of the magazine's major shareholders, along with Paul Newman, Peter Norton and Alan Sagner. Teresa Stack, president of The Nation, continues to oversee the day-to-day business of the magazine.
"The Nation, America's oldest weekly magazine, founded in 1865, the year the Civil War ended, is one of the country's cultural treasures. Katrina vanden Heuvel has an invaluable understanding of the role of the opinion magazine in general and the mission of The Nation in particular," Navasky said. "I believe she is the ideal steward to carry forward The Nation's extraordinary tradition. She has the trust and the confidence of the Nation community.
"As editor of the magazine for the last ten years, Katrina has defined The Nation's voice in the aftermath of the cold war and in the traumatic post-September 11 years. The magazine, under her leadership, has clearly staked out the intellectual and political alternative to the Bush Administration's extremist agenda, and done so much to mobilize our readers and the country against the misbegotten war in Iraq," he added.
"This is an extraordinary responsibility and honor," vanden Heuvel said. "I believe that in these remarkable political and cultural times, the need for The Nation's independent voice is greater than ever. I will insure that the magazine plays an even more influential role in shaping the public debate in the turbulent years ahead. I am privileged to work with such extraordinary writers and contributors, and with such a seasoned and skillful team, who care so deeply about the magazine, its impact and expanding readership."
Founded in 1865 by abolitionists, The Nation promised in its original prospectus that the new weekly "will not be the organ of any sect, party or movement." It would instead be the conscience, a gadfly "to wage war upon the vices of...exaggeration and misrepresentation." And its business structure, invented by its founding editor, the Anglo-Irish journalist E.L. Godkin, was designed to guarantee the editorial independence of the magazine.
The Nation, which claimed 20,000 subscribers in 1978, today boasts a circulation of 187,625 and is the most widely read weekly political opinion magazine in America. Its readership has nearly doubled since the 2000 presidential election. The Nation's website draws more than 800,000 unique visitors a month.
Carey McWilliams, who edited The Nation from 1955 through 1975, once said about the secret of its survival, "It is precisely because The Nation's backers cared more about what it stood for than what it earned that the magazine has survived where countless other publications with circulations in the millions have gone under."
Over the years, the magazine has carried on the tradition of crusading, independent journalism, from Fred Cook's historic coverage of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the FBI and the CIA to Toni Morrison on the language of racism and E.L. Doctorow on democracy. Major authors such as Hunter S. Thompson, James Baldwin and Ralph Nader published their first pieces in the magazine. Katha Pollitt's essays and columns have won a National Magazine Award; groundbreaking series (complete with centerfolds) have focused attention on the national entertainment state and the danger of media conglomerates.
"Our regular contributors and columnists form the core of today's most eloquent liberal, left and independent writers and journalists," vanden Heuvel said. "These include, besides those already mentioned, Naomi Klein, David Corn, William Greider, Jonathan Schell, Eric Alterman, Patricia Williams, John Nichols, Eric Foner, Arthur Danto, Stuart Klawans, Alexander Cockburn and many more."
Vanden Heuvel is a frequent commentator on American and international politics on MSNBC, CNN and PBS. Her articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, USA Today and the Boston Globe. Her weblog, "Editor's Cut", appears on the magazine's website.
Dictionary of Republicanisms, vanden Heuvel's satirical guide to GOP doublespeak, is being published this month by Nation Books. She is also editor and co-editor of numerous books including, with Robert Borosage, Taking Back America--And Taking Down the Radical Right, and, with Stephen F. Cohen, Voices of Glasnost: Interviews With Gorbachev's Reformers. She edited The Nation: 1865-1990, the definitive anthology of the magazine's first 125 years.
Navasky is the George Delacorte Professor of Magazine Journalism at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where he directs the Delacorte Center of Magazines and chairs the Columbia Journalism Review.
Prior to joining The Nation as editor in 1978, Navasky was an editor at The New York Times Magazine and wrote a monthly column, "In Cold Print," about the publishing business for The New York Times Book Review. He is the author of Kennedy Justice and Naming Names, which won a National Book Award. He was founding editor and publisher of Monocle, a "leisurely quarterly of political satire and social criticism" that appeared in the 1950s and early '60s. His most recent book is A Matter of Opinion, a memoir of his life as a publisher and editor.