THiNK Magazine is entering the world of print journalism at a time when many other news organizations are leaving it. The Internet has led to decreased circulation and revenue at virtually every newspaper and magazine, even forcing some to close entirely.
To help steer us through these difficult times, we enlisted the services of Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor and publisher of The Nation magazine. Who better to guide the youngest news magazine in the country than the editor of the oldest?
THiNK Magazine spoke with Katrina vanden Heuvel shortly before the presidential inauguration.
THiNK Magazine: As editor of the oldest and one of the most respected news magazines, what are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Katrina vanden Heuvel: I have a range of responsibilities from actually ensuring that we get out every week—which is no minor thing—to the broader strategic thinking about the issues that we feel are important, and not only to cover them week to week, but to put them on the radar. Those are what I would call not-ready-for-prime-time issues: nationalizing banks, welfare, abolition.
But all in all, its about crafting the direction of a magazine that has always been independent, that has stood outside the establishment, that has been committed to principles of justice, of peace, of economic service, civil liberties and civil rights. So there’s a broad responsibility, in addition to actually pushing with the editors, to make sure pieces are being edited correctly, that we have the right lineup and we deal with the face of the magazine.
But I would add..is yours a print magazine?
THiNK: Yes, but we also have a website we update in between issues.
KvH: We have a web editor, but the other thing I do almost every day is work out what’s going to be on our website, because it amplifies the magazine but there is original material here as well, so its almost as if I’m editing two different magazines every day.
THiNK: The Bush administration is now over. And while that is certainly good for the country, it may prove to be an interesting obstacle for liberal and progressive types who have had tremendous success butting heads with conservative, Republican leadership. Does The Nation intend to keep going after the Bush Administration post-mortem or will the magazine move on?
KvH: Well you’re absolutely right that the 8 years of the Bush administration not only provided us with an enormous amount to cover and to expose, it increased out circulation by some 70%.
But the role of The Nation has always been to hold politicians accountable, to push the limits of debate, to expose abuse and corruption regardless of party.
For the first time in many years we’re going to have allies inside this administration, but the great changes of our time in this country have come when people working outside, whether it’s a movement or magazines have pushed. The New Deal didn’t happen without labor movements, the end of slavery did not happen without the abolitionists, who by the way founded The Nation magazine. The Vietnam War did not end, nor did civil rights legislation come about without pressure, but not just from congress.
So what we need to do about it is not just keep a mindset of pure opposition, but never lose sight of our core mission, which is to be honest, particularlyin holding politicians accountable while giving them backbone and spine with encouragement and pressure.
THiNK: The Obama administration has been coy when it comes to investigating the Bush administration’s wrongdoings. Is that something that publications like The Nation should push for, or is it time to focus on the crises at hand?
KvH: I think you can walk and chew gum at the same time. I think that part of moving forward is learning lessons for the past.
The Nation not only has a major piece this week by former District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman, who played a role in the Watergate investigations, but we also have our netroots movement correspondent Ari Melber, who has worked with the Obama camp’s website change.gov and pushed forward the question of whether the Obama administration will appoint a special prosecutor. It is now the most popular question on that website, and Obama was pushed to reply to that question by George Stephanopoulos of ABC this past Sunday.
I will say that we plan to move forward as we do every issue. For example, how do we craft a recovery plan to get us out of this economic crisis?
But at the same time, there is also a belief in upholding the rule of law and pushing this administration to think hard about how it can hold Bush administration officials accountable. I don’t know if we will be successful, but part of our work is not measuring success by purely metric outcomes but by holding true to principles which guide The Nation and I hope the nation.
THiNK: Its funny that you mention Ari Melber, he’s actually coming to speak to us here at Stony Brook in February.
KvH: Oh great, he’s terrific! Part of our work at The Nation is to think hard about new media and how we can connect to it, and we want to be a part of it. Ari has been terrific as netroots movement correspondent, first time we’ve ever had that position.
THiNK: From the newest magazine to the oldest, do you have any advice for us as we prepare for our first issue?
KvH: I will tell you, The Nation magazine is 143 years old, and I feel 143 years old some mornings. There’s nothing like starting a new magazine, and I admire and respect you for doing so, having the moxie and the time to do it. So I wish you all the best, you and your colleagues.
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