The hardworking staff has long been a fan (we were a charter subscriber in the mid-90s) – and also a critic – of The Weekly Standard, which officially folded on Friday. For over two decades we’ve found the magazine’s political coverage generally harebrained, and its Culture & Arts coverage generally excellent.
When the news broke earlier this month that the magazine’s end was imminent, Politico’s Morning Media registered the objections left and right.
— “This is terrible news,” Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tweeted following CNN first reporting Tuesday on the magazine’s precarious position. “Vibrant conservative media (that is not just an echo chamber or de facto state media) is incredibly important for a robust public conversation.” Washington Post columnist Max Boot said: “America will be worse off without @weeklystandard to fight for a principled, un-Trumpified conservatism.”
— “The Weekly Standard has always published some of the best writers, word for word — not just the best conservative writers — in American political journalism,” tweeted New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. “To kill it because its brand is too anti-Trump is ultimately an act of philistinism.”
Even public-broadcast luminaries have weighed in with lamentations for what was known in the George W. Bush years as the in-flight magazine of Air Force One.
Politico’s Jack Shafer summed up the magacide neatly: “[Billionaire conservative Philip Anschutz] has grown tired of it. He better favors his other conservative political publication, the Washington Examiner, which his company announced plans on Monday to ‘expand into a national distributed magazine with a broadened editorial focus.’ In other words, the Standard is dying so the Examiner can live larger.”
And it’s a pretty ugly death, according to CNN’s Brian Stelter in his Reliable Sources newsletter. He obtained an audiotape of the staff meeting that Ryan McKibben, the head of Anschutz’s holding company Clarity Media, held on Friday (bold emphasis Stelter’s).
McKibben told staff that they would be paid through the end of the year, and that afterward they would receive severance which would range in scale depending on factors like seniority. To receive severance, however, employees would need to sign a strict non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreement. “I know it’s an emotional day, but I want to tell you, don’t get on social media and attack anybody because it will put your severance in jeopardy,” McKibben told employees.
Nice. When staff members tried to ask some questions, McKibben replied, “I’m not going to take questions. This isn’t a press conference.”
That attitude is very much in keeping with John Podhoretz’s lede in a Commentary piece on Friday.
The Weekly Standard will be no more. There is no real reason we are witnessing the magazine’s demise other than deep pettiness and a personal desire for bureaucratic revenge on the part of a penny-ante Machiavellian who works for its parent company.
Podhoretz seems to be talking about McKibben there. The conventional wisdom is that Anschutz refused to sell the magazine because what he really wants is to strip-mine the Weekly Standard subscriber base and transfer it to the Washington Examiner, which would fulfill the former’s circulation commitments.
That prospect led us to make a ‘Dear John’ 1-800 call and receive this Dear John email in return.
Dear Weekly Standard,
You will be missed a lot more than a hundred dollars worth.
Campaign Outsider Extra Bonus Content™ (via Politico Playbook)
They forgot Joseph Epstein, one of the Weekly Standard’s consistent delights, who’s been remarkably prolific throughout the magazine’s life – and his own, come to think of it. (Epstein’s 2016 piece Hitting Eighty is, as even he would have to concede, thoroughly charming.)
Read it all soon: Stelter also reported that “McKibben stunned staff when he said at Friday’s meeting that ‘at some point’ The Weekly Standard’s website is ‘going to come down.'”