ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The first issue of The New Republic magazine, published on November 7th 1914, included among several other items, commentary on the Democrats' victory in the congressional election just past and an essay by Rebecca West. It was critical of conservative thought and intellectual's stagnation in Britain.
The issue that's out today includes, among several other items, a report on what Democrat Barack Obama really learned in his days as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side, and a dissection of where memoir ends and fiction begins in the stories of David Sedaris. For all that has changed in The New Republic over the years in outlook and contents, today's issue marks a significant departure in form. It's bigger, fatter, more artwork; and it's going to be a bi-weekly, no longer a weekly.
This physical reincarnation of The New Republic is one magazine's proposed solution to the media problem of our day: In the age of digital new media, where do old media fit in?
Franklin Foer is the editor of The New Republic, and joins us. First of all, what's different? You've brought a copy of the new magazine with you. Tell us about what's changed about The New Republic.
Mr. FRANKLIN FOER (Editor, The New Republic): Well, despite the rise of online and the rush to the Internet, we tried to invest, actually, in the physical print edition of the magazine. The paper is of a much higher quality. The cover stock is much thicker. And we've made this upgrade in order to carry art and photography of a much higher quality. We have an original portrait on the cover of Barack Obama by the painter Dana Schutz. And we have an original photograph of Barack Obama that's taken of his face in black and white.
And you can see it seems like every pore on his face. And you wouldn't have been able to see him in such extravagant detail in our old format.
SIEGEL: So the thinking here is that, if you're going to actually buy a magazine in hard copy, then it should be something that takes advantage of paper and really uses that form to the outmost.
Mr. FOER: Exactly. When you're producing an opinion journal, you have to ask yourself, why am I printing this on paper? I could publish it for almost nothing or a fraction of the cost online. And I think the investment that we made in putting out a paper magazine is something that we've tried to highlight.
SIEGEL: So, apart from the artwork, what is a distinction in content between something that belongs, as The New Republic now sees it, in the physical hardcopy magazine and what belongs online?
Mr. FOER: We're trying to produce things that will last. When you read something on your workstation in three minutes, you're reading something usually that's pretty ephemeral, and that's produced in an ephemeral sort of way. But for these pieces that we're producing for our bi-weekly print magazine, we're producing pieces that we hope will last not just for two weeks, but will last for months or sometimes even years.
And that means that we're publishing longer pieces, we're allowing our reporters to spend even longer in the production of the pieces and the garnering of information and the actual writing of the pieces. So we hope that they will be of a higher literary and reportorial quality.
SIEGEL: And longer?
Mr. FOER: And longer.
SIEGEL: The New Republic has been bought recently by CanWest, big Canadian media conglomerate. What's the future of a historically family or individually owned publication under corporate ownership?
Mr. FOER: More articles about hockey and…
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Mr. FOER: …Royal Canadian Mounties.
SIEGEL: There are serious questions about whether you're now part of a large media group that's going to tell you what should be in the magazine or not, as opposed to an individual owner.
Mr. FOER: I think we -
SIEGEL: To tell you what's on the magazine or not.
Mr. FOER: I think, I think we've been very lucky in landing with this, in particular, conglomerate, because they've given us a very long leash when it comes to editorial independence. But the good thing for a magazine like us now residing within a big media company is that we've never been run by somebody with particular media savvy. So in terms of growing the magazine, it helps have people who know what they're doing.
SIEGEL: What is consistent about The New Republic throughout? What is the thread that you find is consistent since 1914?
Mr. FOER: We were the magazine that coined the modern usage of the term liberalism, and we have been involved over the ages in a contest for it's meaning and in its legacy. And so that's been a consistent part of the magazine.
But I think even more than the ideology, there's been a quality associated with the magazine and a brand of analysis that has less to do with actual political views and more to do with a certain hardheadedness about politics and a certain depth that I think that the magazine gets into when we start examining and picking apart political ideas or works of literature.
SIEGEL: Franklin Foer, editor of The New Republic, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. FOER: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Franklin Foer was talking with us about the magazine's new format, which debuts today.
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MICHELE NORRIS, host:
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