Thursday, January 18, 2007

Commentary's evolution

One of my favourite publications, Commentary, has been undergoing some significant changes. It has overhauled its website - which until now had simply been a portal to access the current issue and the magazine's archives - and it has started a group blog called Contentions. The blog looks very promising, and the slate of authors includes some of my favourite commentators.
The reasons behind these changes emerged late last year. The New York Sun reported on 21 December:
Commentary Magazine, a 61-year-old opinion journal that served as an incubator of neoconservative thought, is splitting from the American Jewish Committee. The Jewish-themed, editorially independent magazine initiated its secession, in an effort to court new and larger donors who wish to fund Commentary directly. Its editor, Neal Kozodoy, said the magazine is committed to increasing its online presence.
In the fall, the governing board of the American Jewish Committee granted the split, beginning with the January 2007 issue. The committee has transferred to Commentary all of the magazine's intellectual and financial assets. In the near-term, Commentary will pay rent to keep its offices at the committee's East 56th Street headquarters.
Founded in 1945 as a center-left, anti-Communist journal, Commentary had by the early 1970s shifted significantly to the right under its then-editor, Norman Podhoretz. Mr. Podhoretz, who led Commentary between 1960 and 1995, is now the magazine's editor-at-large.
Published 11 times a year, Commentary distributes about 32,000 copies of each edition of the magazine. Despite its relatively small circulation, the magazine has been disproportionably influential in matters of domestic and foreign policy. Its many notable contributors have included a former U.S. senator of New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former American ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and a prominent American philosopher, Francis Fukuyama.
I am quite excited by the possibilities that these changes portend, and from what I have seen, Commentary's editors are bringing the magazine into the 21st century with dignity and without sacrificing editorial quality. This is great news, as I think it is important - in order to remain relevant in the intellectual battles of our day - to maintain the sombre print model that has been so successful in fostering serious and innovative thinking and writing, while at the same time harnessing the new forms of communication that the internet age is offering us. Commentary's editors seem to be moving in exactly the right direction and I wish them continued success.

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