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Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes buys the New Republic magazine

March 09, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and now publisher and editor-in-chief of the New Republic, is photographed in Seoul in 2010.
Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and now publisher and editor-in-chief… (SeongJoon Cho / Bloomberg )

Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and coordinator of Barack Obama's online efforts during the 2008 presidential election, is entering the "old media" fray as publisher and editor-in-chief of the New Republic, the publication announced Friday.

Initial response? Journalists who do not write for the New Republic are seething with envy, and wonder if perhaps another Silicon Valley millionaire/billionaire would like to come and inject an infusion of new-media money into their publication too.

But it's not just the money, it's also what Hughes is saying about the state of journalism today that is drawing attention. After helping Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskowitz start Facebook in 2004, Hughes joined Obama's presidential campaign in 2007.

In a letter to readers of the New Republic, the 28-year-old Hughes says that chasing Web traffic is a mistake and implies that he really believes there is still a hunger for long-form content.

"It seems that today too many media institutions chase superficial metrics of online virality at the expense of investing in rigorous reporting and analysis of the most important stories of our time," he writes. "When few people are investing in media institutions with such bold aims as 'enlightenment to the problems of the nation,' I believe we must."

In a media blitz Friday (a story in the New York Times, an interview on NPR) Hughes also added to another journalistic dream -- that as soon as a critical mass of people have a tablet in front of them, there will suddenly be demand for 3,000-word and even 5,000-word stories again.

Hughes tells NPR's Steve Inskeep, "What's really interesting is the introduction of the tablet -- not just the iPad, but the Nook and the Kindle. While they aren't going to solve all of our problem, I do think they make it easier for people to pause, linger, read and really process very important ideas."

Even better, with Facebook money in his pocket, Hughes doesn't seem to care if the New Republic is ever profitable.

When the New York Times asked Hughes how he would make money for a magazine that has long been in the red, Hughes replied, "Profit per se is not my motive. The reason I'm getting involved here is that I believe in the type of vigorous contextual journalism that we -- we in general as a society -- need."

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