NYT Celebrates Hypothetical Success of Far-Left Nation Mag, Lamented National Review 'Nastiness' After 2008 Election

Jeremy Peters celebrates success at the far-left Nation that has yet to occur: "Despite all the gloom, could last week's Democratic pummeling actually have a silver lining for The Nation, once home to writers like Henry James, Ezra Pound, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and even Yeats?" Yet when Obama won in 2008, the Times not only didn't predict the rise of National Review, it attacked the magazine's "nastiness."

Lemons into lemonade: The front of Monday's Business Day by Jeremy Peters sees good times ahead for the far-left Nation magazine: "Bad News for Liberals May Be Good News for a Liberal Magazine." (The Nation is more accurately described as left-wing.)

Yet the Times took the opposite tack in 2008, running a hostile piece on the "nastiness" of the debate within National Review, even as the conservative magazine's subscription base was rising. The Nation, by contrast, has (obviously) yet to benefit from rising Republican electoral fortunes yet the mere prospect is worthy of celebration at the Times.

Other than perhaps the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, there were few places as despondent on election night as the Manhattan offices of The Nation, the 146-year-old journal of fiery leftist opinion.

A group of about 15 writers, editors and interns sat around a conference table and watched the results as they drowned their sorrows in bottles of Trader Joe's red wine. Even the friendly voices on MSNBC proved little solace as the numbers rolled in, confirming a Republican resurgence across the country.

Peters explained how the magazine's fortunes skidded as liberal politics began to flourish, and that "No weekly magazine tracked by the Media Industry Newsletter has lost more pages of advertising this year than The Nation."

Despite all the gloom, could last week's Democratic pummeling actually have a silver lining for The Nation, once home to writers like Henry James, Ezra Pound, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and even Yeats? Katrina vanden Heuvel, the magazine's editor and publisher, did not have to think long about that question.

"If you can't expose the hypocrisy of this new group of Republicans, then we're not doing our job. And I mean that," she said in an interview from her office on election night as she sipped a glass of Champagne, defiant as Democratic losses piled up and the mood around her darkened.

"I mean you've got a lot to work with," she said. "You've got a Tea Party caucus in the Senate, a Tea Party caucus in the House. So I think you have a lot of rich material."

If history is any guide, Ms. vanden Heuvel could be proved right.

The Bush years were good - very good - to The Nation. After operating in the red almost every year since it was founded by abolitionists in 1865, the magazine turned a profit in 2003.


A big moneymaker for The Nation in recent years has been its cruise, which people pay thousands of dollars to attend so they can listen to lions of the left like Ralph Nader speak as they sail along the Alaskan coast.

Ms. vanden Heuvel conceded that she borrowed the idea from her conservative rival, National Review. But she said the cruise now brings in about $200,000 each year.

(National Review appears to be doing quite well, having received a lift from conservative dismay over Democrats in power. Its subscriptions have increased from 150,000 in 2006 to nearly 200,000 this year. Newsstand sales have remained essentially flat for the last five years.)

But while the Times commiserated at a pity party with The Nation on Election Night, the paper didn't exactly celebrate National Review's rebirth after the Democrat gains in 2006 or Obama's win in 2008. In fact, the Times actually attacked National Review in a November 17, 2008 story by Tim Arango: "At National Review, a Threat to Its Reputation for Erudition."

In a span of 252 days, the National Review lost two Buckleys - one to death, another to resignation - and an election.

Now, thanks to the coarsening effect of the Internet on political discourse, the magazine may have lost something else: its reputation as the cradle for conservative intellectuals and home for erudite and well-mannered debate prized by its founder, the late William F. Buckley Jr.

In the general conservative blogosphere and in The Corner, National Review's popular blog, the tenor of debate - particularly as it related to the fitness of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska to be vice president - devolved into open nastiness during the campaign season, laying bare debates among conservatives that in a pre-Internet age may have been kept behind closed doors.

The specifics of that "nastiness" consisted of a smattering of rude emails sent by NR readers (a phenomenon not unheard of on the left) and not by anything actually written in National Review or National Review Online.

While the Times on Monday celebrated the hypothetical future success of the left-wing Nation magazine, Arango in 2008 buried the actual success of the conservative National Review in paragraph 28 of his 32-paragraph story: "At the start of the year, its circulation was 169,000, which has grown to about 185,000 for its latest postelection issue, which will arrive this week in mailboxes."