I am fascinated by the story about the demise of The New Republic because I think it prompts so many different threads of thought about how technology is impacting our lives. It is a larger than life demonstration of the clash of old and new, past and future, that is playing out throughout our culture, including our classrooms. There are lessons here for educators, both the innovators and the traditionalists, about how to make change in a way that preserves the best of the past and takes advantage of the best of the future.
1. I had trouble getting through The New Yorker article. It was well written, engaging and informative, but my attention span seems to have shortened for long form essays. Have I been impacted by the 140-character trend? Or is there just too much distraction from email and social media?
2. I wasn’t prepared for how young Chris Hughes looks. He is over 30 years old but that still seems too youthful to take over the helm of TNR, which just celebrated its 100th birthday. He does sport a history and literature degree from Harvard. Startled by his photo, I suddenly realized that I am the older generation with more respect for experience and longevity than youthful enthusiasm. But, I was wrong, since Franklin Foer is only 37 and was 31 when he first became editor. The battle of past and future isn’t always defined age any more than the clash of digital natives and immigrants depicted in education.
3. At its core, however, this is a story about botched leadership. Leaders are expected not just to have vision but be able to communicate that vision to others and be open to their ideas and input, showing respect for that experience and longevity I mentioned earlier. The two leaders overseeing the debacle remain mostly unrepentant, a further demonstration of their lack of leadership. Hughes has lashed out at the writers and editors who left while Guy Vidra, brought in as the new chief executive, was a little more conciliatory but still defiant. Despite his protestations otherwise, this seems very much a clash of cultures and the inability of a successful businessman to admit that just being able to buy the magazine doesn’t mean you know best how to run it. Vidra’s comment that Gabriel Snyder better shares their vision and ideas is a sure sign that they think they know best. Only time will tell.