“Kindbrenner” and The Atlantic

AtlanticOoph, I just read Jack Shafer’s withering assessment of all the recent developments at The Atlantic Monthly. I’m not sure if it’s sour grapes, considering that Shafer was a potential EIC candidate, or what, but he doesn’t hesitate to dismantle Atlantic owner David Bradley as only someone who’s quite familiar with the man and his vanity magainze empire can.

Having met Bradley as an Atlantic intern, Shafer’s assessment — from the Bradley pledge “not to be the guy who moves the Atlantic to Washington” to the man’s whisper-level voice to the “tendentious wonkery” of the State of the Union issue I worked on — is spot on. Thankfully, he has kind words for the writers, editors, and new Editor-in-Chief (James Bennet, a NY Times transplant), as well he should. But the brutal comparison of Bradley to the Yankees tyrant George Steinbrenner is anything but kind.

Ever since the magazine announced its decision to stop printing fiction (horay for the online publishing cop out!), I’ve had a sinking feeling about the Atlantic. I still have a soft spot in my heart for it, and I do my best to wade through the 150-page stapled monsters when they arrive each month, but as the magazine becomes more of policy-wonk mental masturbation, I find myself reading less and less. And with Bradley’s decision to move the whole operation to D.C. — and hence lose Cullen Murphy, Michael Curtis, and most of the other true editorial talent — I think that sinking feeling has just about reached the pavement.

NB: Looking at my most recent Atlantic, I just noticed that the name has changed. It’s no longer “The Atlantic Monthy,” now it’s just “The Atlantic.” I guess this is due mostly to the publisher’s decision to cut back to 10 issues a year instead of 12. Which begs another important question: In the age of weeklies, dailies, and blogs, what the heck kind of role does a “tweener” magazine have? Sure, bimonthly issues work for wedding mags and Rachel Ray, but for a newsy, intellectual pub? Even think-tank wonkery gets dated aweful fast these days.