Ross Douuthat “The Old Journalism and the New” in the New York Times for December 7 2014 laments, as many of us do, what is happening at TNR under the ownership of a 28 year old techy whiz kid from the Facebook circle. Douthat:
“The New Republic as-it-was, the magazine I and others grew up reading, was emphatically not just a “policy magazine.” It was, instead, a publication that deliberately integrated its policy writing with often-extraordinary coverage of literature, philosophy, history, religion, music, fine art. … It wasn’t just a liberal magazine, in other words; it was a liberal-arts magazine, which unlike many of today’s online ventures never left its readers with the delusion that literary style or intellectual ambition were of secondary importance, or that today’s fashions represented permanent truths.”
But that is only part of a much bigger question: Why is it so rare to find places where literary values and intellectual engagement are of prime importance? Many of us went into academia hoping for just that, but found, all too often, a climate that would not foster such values and engagement. I was lucky both at Princeton and at the National Humanities Center where the climate was benign, but I don’t imagine my experience is typical.
Consequences? A genuine liberal education for undergraduates can only be sustained, I believe, when there is a genuinely liberal-arts intellectual life among the faculty. That, like the old TNR, is now increasingly under pressure from those who claim to know better, and maybe from neglect on the part of those who really should know better.