Protest and Survive
I suspect that The Nation has survived all these years partly because it serves no party, movement or sect but also because of its independence, financial as well as political. I believe there is another reason why The Nation survives as America's oldest weekly in a business sector where survival may be the ultimate test of success. And it has to do partly with the raison d'être of all journals of opinion, and partly with The Nation's values and ideals.
Protest against injustice, protest against the despoliation of the world's resources, protest against the arbitrary exercise of power, protest against prejudice and discrimination, protest on behalf of the dispossessed and the disenfranchised, protest on behalf of those who don't read us are only one part of The Nation's mission, but a critical part.
At first I thought it was an anomaly when Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation agreed to fund The Weekly Standard. Because by definition a journal of opinion, if it is to be politically and culturally free, must also be financially independent. The conventional wisdom tells us that in the world of mass magazines, so-called stand-alones are a thing of the past. Not so in the world of opinion journals, where stand-aloneness seems to be something of a necessary condition.
But then I thought, Well, in the UK the Spectator, currently owned by the London Telegraph's communications conglomerate, has survived a series of megacorporate owners. And though like the Standard, only more so, it often values style over substance and is too quirky to be circumscribed by a party line, it is nevertheless an opinion journal of the right. These magazines are in the position of defending the powers that be, and so conglomerate ownership, which is anathema to the left, may be organically appropriate to their mission as magazines dedicated to free-market capitalism.
Either way, as The American Prospect's Bob Kuttner has observed, one fundamental difference between left and right is that "the right is always floating downstream relative to economic power. And the left is always heading upstream. That helps explain why the right is always so well-funded. Because it is validating the world view of people who have a ton of money."
Nevertheless, I guess I still subscribe to the idea that those of us in the opinion industry have a stake in protecting one another's space. And if you're not already, you should become a subscriber, too.
We are told that because the new media quicken the news cycle--that the twenty-four-hour news cycle is now a twenty-four-minute one--the weekly will soon be, if it is not already, outmoded if not outmodemed. To the contrary, what the speeded-up new media mean is that the news is too often replaced by un-fact-checked hyperbole; and thoughtful debate, argument and opinion by shouting matches.