The Nation has made some changes. When E.L. Godkin and his fellow editors put Volume 1, Number 1, of The Nation to bed in July 1865, they noted, “It has been a week singularly barren of exciting events.” That is not a claim any of us would make today.
Change has been a constant in the magazine’s history—and one of the keys to our longevity. In 1865, Godkin sent John Richard Dennett on horseback to report on “The South as It Is,” a searing account of defeat and devastation that also conveys, forcefully enough to still shock readers today, the recalcitrance, resentment, and deeply rooted racism that persisted after the close of the Civil War.
Nowadays Nation correspondents seldom travel on horseback. But in the past year alone they’ve reported on wildfires in Australia; the rise of Hindu nationalism in India; climate catastrophe in Senegal and Alaska; environmental activism in Canada, Europe, and the United States; and the desperate plight of immigrants along our southern border. Not to mention President Donald Trump’s weapons of mass distraction—and the dangerous administrative moves and personnel changes under all the noise. And that was before the coronavirus, which saw us add photographers, artists, writers, and even an epidemiologist to our pages to help Nation readers make sense of the science—and the politics—of this pandemic.
Still, why change the way the magazine looks? Because our relationship to our readers and to the world we cover has changed. From 1865 until some point in the last decade, The Nation functioned partly as a weekly news magazine—and looked it. We still break important stories, often agenda-setting stories, by award-winning writers. But we do that now every day of the week, on TheNation.com.
News, particularly news that someone in power doesn’t want you to know—whether that’s our recent cover story on Bill Gates’s self-dealing or our new D.C. correspondent Ken Klippenstein’s exposé of the Border Patrol’s involvement in domestic counterinsurgency—remains an important part of The Nation’s mission. So does paying attention to the people, places, movements, and machinations the mainstream media treats with malign neglect. But we’ve found that readers of our print magazine increasingly come to us for analysis, perspective, political argument, debate—and the kind of deep dive that, in the hands of a great reporter, can open minds and change the world. Stories with impact. Stories that stay with you. And stories that you’ll want to spend time with.
When we asked print readers what they wanted more of, their answers were clear: more investigative journalism, more political news unavailable elsewhere, and more analysis from The Nation’s distinctive progressive perspective. More great stories. More strong arguments. More fearless reporting. With more time between issues to enjoy each print edition of The Nation.
So that’s what we’re going to deliver—twice a month, with 20 percent more pages in each issue (four of those will be special 64-page double issues) that offer even more room for vivid reporting, long-form analysis, and hard-hitting investigations.
Turn the page, and you’ll find the same showcase for our brilliant columnists, along with an expanded menu of compelling dispatches, debate, and data crucial to understanding the events we cover. Where a picture is worth a thousand words, we’ll use the picture. And where a graph or cartoon delivers information that words struggle to convey, we’ll save our words for where they’re needed.
In our expanded features section, for instance, which will allow for a greater variety of settings, subjects, voices, perspectives, article lengths, and angles of approach in every issue. Or our expanded Books and Arts coverage, giving our critics more room to develop their arguments and our editors the chance to showcase a wider variety of writers and artifacts.
A word about looks. The difference between redesign and redecoration is that while both change what you see in front of you, the former is driven by ideas. There are a lot of adjectives we hope will come to mind when readers hold this new Nation in their hands: crisp, clean, intelligent, modern, engaging, beautiful, intentional. As editor, my focus is always on content—what we cover, how we cover it, and whether publishing a given article will inform, enlighten, or delight our readers. Because at The Nation, we don’t take any reader—or any reader’s time—for granted.
Finally, we should talk about what we’ve lost these past few months. First, of course, the people whose lives were cruelly cut short, including some who had been members of the Nation family for many years. That these losses have fallen so unequally—on people of color, the poor, the incarcerated, the elderly, tearing gaping holes in our already fraying social fabric—has only added insult to grievous injury. We have also sustained incalculable losses in our culture, our politics, and our daily experience of the world. We began planning for this redesign long before a single case of Covid-19 had been diagnosed. Yet after months of relying on our electronic devices not just for news or opinions but for work meetings, family gatherings, and even weddings and funerals, it is easier to see what’s missing. Theater. Live music. Sharing the dark with others at the movies. Sharing the light with others in museums, playgrounds, or buses. The rich, fraught, undigitized assemblage of analog life.
We’ve had books but no live poetry readings. We still have a presidential election of sorts going on now, but without campaign rallies and with an absolute prohibition—at least by the Democratic nominees—on pressing the flesh. And thanks to the men and women of the US Postal Service, we’ve had magazines. Which, like vinyl records and film photography, have been consigned by many to the past.
We disagree. We believe that print on paper, though as old as Gutenberg or his Chinese predecessors, is a medium with a future. So in reimagining The Nation for the 21st century, we asked our creative director, Robert Best, for a magazine that is unabashedly “in print,” reveling in striking typography, uncluttered design, powerful language, and the invocation of stillness and sustained attention.
Why publish on paper at all? Because of what only paper can give you: an analog experience in a digital age. Read on! And then let us know what you think.