Friday, October 20, 2006
OK, let's get this over with:
On Wednesday, The New Republic and I parted ways, ending my four-year association with the magazine. The ostensible reason for my release concerns my relationship with Franklin Foer and the magazine's other editors. However, the irreconcilable ideological differences between myself and the top editors at the magazine have been clear to me for months now, and clear to them as well. The magazine gave me the opportunity to report on controversial subjects such as Iraq and the war on terrorism, and for that I am deeply grateful. I hope, and expect, that The New Republic will continue its 90-year tradition of truth-telling.

I would like to send a note of appreciation to the many friends and respected colleagues who work at the magazine. You have taught me very much, and I hope to live up to your high standards in my future work.

--Spencer Ackerman
The ostensible reason for my release concerns my relationship with Franklin Foer and the magazine's other editors.

Your "relationship with Franklin Foer and the magazine's other editors"? I'm not even sure what that means. It sounds like you guys got into a fist fight together.

However, the irreconcilable ideological differences between myself and the top editors at the magazine have been clear to me for months now, and clear to them as well.

This is unfortunate. But this really does raise some questions. One of the things TNR loves to say is how people who have diverse points of view can still publish under the same masthead at TNR. But if you were let go because of ideological differences, this makes what they say into a bold face lie. This is especially pertinent because your opposition to the war in Iraq and the neo-con imperialist agenda is clearly the ideological difference you're talking about. That they think your opposition is too extreme for them when your opposition is very mainstream is an indication of how much the neo-con kool-aid the editors of Joe Lieberman Weekly swallowed.

I think, however, you're treading lightly on one pertinant topic: TNR's owners, especially Martin Peretz (MP). For a while now, I've wondered how your close friendship with Matthew Yglesias would affect your position at TNR. Matthew has been saying some none too nice things about MP, and it seems to me your "editors" (ie Foer with some conjoling from MP) might have concluded even though Yglesias wasn't your sockpuppet, his view of MP wasn't substantially from yours. One thing about TNR is even though one can have differences in opinion about politics, one cannot have differences in how magnanimous MP is - at least publicly. It seems to me the unkind words about MP from Yglesias were not appreciated from your Bosses.

By the way, you being let go makes TNR look even worse because technically Lee "sprezzatura" Siegel is still an editor for TNR while you aren't.
Blogger Dan the Man | 8:19 AM

"I hope, and expect, that The New Republic will continue its 90-year tradition of truth-telling."

Firing one of the magazine's few dedicated truthtellers doesn't exactly indicate a commitment to the "tradition."

Why not face the facts? It's just Peretz's (and AIPAC's) toy now.
Blogger Billmon | 8:42 AM

spencer

i'm probably about where you are on the heirarchy tree in DC journalism, except in hollywood instead. some real success but still a long way up to go, and still hoping someday to havbe that big studio job (aka an op-ed column in the NY Times for you).

now, you can pussyfoot and bullshit all you want, and yes, maybe that will help with your career path. you can write pussilanimous posts like the one above, and keep your non-bomb-thrower cred. i get it. DC is expensive, you probably are in family start-up mode, messing with these people is hard.

but the direction you are going has precedent--its name is david broder, david ignatius etc. don't do it, dude.

marty peretz is a bad person. it is what it is. TNR is a shitbox. it is what it is. it has blown with the winds of power without fail for 50 years. if the "contrarian center" moves to the right, be sure that TNR was doing the dragging. i can't begin to the list the number of things it has got wrong. and bullshit references to good cultural criticism are beside the point--the editorial board and its policies, led by marginal thinker and clever marrier marty peretz, have been on the wrong side of everything for a long time. i'm glad your checks cleared, and i'm glad you stepped up the corporate ladder--i've done the same thing here--but at a certain point you've got to sack up and stop being such a softie. it doesn't bode well for your future.
Blogger Robert Green | 8:51 AM

Every year, when it comes time to renew to TNR, I go through the same struggle. I weigh TNR's growing editorial obnoxiousness against its often excellent journalism and always solid cultural coverage. One consideration that has always gone into my decision to keep receiving the magazine is that you were writing for it.

Your departure from the magazine has made my decision whether to renew or not to renew much easier this time. If TNR can do without you, it can do without me.
Blogger Jerry C | 8:56 AM

No re-subscription to TNR Online for me next time either. Peretz' malignant influence has obviously gone way too far.
Blogger Haggai | 9:32 AM

"I hope, and expect, that The New Republic will continue its 90-year tradition of truth-telling."

I think the verb you're looking for here is "resume".
Blogger Delicious | 9:41 AM

90 years minus 20 years of Peretz is still a net 70 years of truth-telling, or 90 years of 82% truth telling. Pretty impressive, but not something that Peretz would be wise to mention.
Blogger John Emerson | 9:48 AM

Is anyone really surprised that a recently fired/"released" person isn't publicly fulminating against his still-influential ex-bosses on a website with his former workplace in its URL? Really?
Blogger Ben Wolfson | 11:05 AM

Spencer Ackerman was the only reason I read the TNR.

It is no secret that TNR is neocon in foreign affairs and perhaps not surprising given the fact that it is owned by 3 neocons. If I owned a magazine and poured millions into it I would want it to reflect my ideological perspective.

What I don't understand is why they still pretend to be a liberal publication. I read the Marty Peretz blog the Spine a few times and it is not that different from the Weekly Standard. He seems to hate all prominent Democrats, except Joe Lieberman who is no longer a Democrat. His animus is directed at Carter, Clinton, Kerry, Hillary, Biden.......

The far right controls all 3 branches of govt and yet TNR goes after strawman like Michael Moore. Peter Beinart wants us to believe Michael Moore who has no power is a bigger threat than Scalia, Bush, Cheney, Frist...........right wing republicans with real power and not afraid to use it.
Blogger Miri11 | 11:55 AM

I guess I'm just repeating what others have said, but too many compliments is never a bad thing, so here goes.

Though I've subscribed to TNR for a long time, I think that the magazine veered badly off course starting in late 2002, during the push for war in Iraq, and I don't think it has ever fully recovered. I get the sense from your writing and your blog posts--which have been consistently excellent--that you have been fighting the good fight from within TNR to try to correct that course.

They very much need someone like you there, and I fear that without you, their ship will sail rapidly back toward Peretz land. Oh well. Their loss. I wish you the best of luck. You're an excellent journalist and I'm sure you'll do well.
Blogger A.L. | 1:28 PM

I just want to say, you made a good decision and I'm sure you'll find doors opening for you and new opportunities shortly.

I admire you for sticking with your principles.
Blogger MNPundit | 1:59 PM

I look forward to reading you elsewhere. Best of luck in future endeavors.
Blogger Jude Nagurney Camwell | 2:06 PM

Thrilled you have a blog (and linked in to it http://phdiva.blogspot.com/2006/10/spencer-ackerman-blogger.html).

If you're having problems getting the hang of Blogger, and need any help, just drop me a line.

Best wishes for your new venture.
Blogger Dorothy King | 2:40 PM

I'm very sorry to see you go. You've been a stellar writer and an insightful thinker, and I've enjoyed reading your pieces since I subscribed back in high school.

I will say that I am disheartened that your departure will undoubtedly fuel those who wish to tag TNR as nothing but a conservative shill rag, which is entirely untrue. Reading TNR--yourself, Beinart, Foer, Zimmerman, the whole gang--has solidified my commitment to the party and to the liberal ideals it stands for. The obsessive desire by some members of the left to see TNR go down in flames is spectacularly frustrating to me, especially when the level of anger and the policy critiques you'd find from TNR directed at the right is not noticably different from those you'd see at DKos or like blogs anyway. This civil war needs to end, and it needs to end now.

All that notwithstanding, best of luck, and I look forward to reading you where-ever you land your feat.
Blogger David Schraub | 4:01 PM

I began reading TNR in 2002. It is my understanding now that this was not a particularly auspicious time in the periodical's history. In fact, I thought TNR sucked. I had to quit reading it on the treadmill because some of the commentary was artificially inflating my working heart rate.

Spencer Ackerman, your pieces I could read without fear of stroke. Therefore I offer you consolation if you are sad about losing your job, or good luck on getting the hell out of Dodge if you are happy to be moving on.
Blogger Volanta | 9:04 PM

I'm shocked and very disappointed. I've been a TNR reader for 26 years now, and your writing on Iraq was one of the best things TNR had to offer.

I wish you well and will look here for news of your next ventures.

Good luck,

Neil Purcell
Blogger Neil | 9:06 PM

Oh, this contrarian business (the writers at TNR think they're liberals, and contrarians...) is tricky. Tricky, tricky, tricky.
Blogger Jay Rosen | 11:07 PM

Eh, now I can get all my Spencer in one place without having to mess with the rest of 'em...
Blogger Robert Farley | 7:18 AM

Spencer, it is most certainly their loss. Your posts were the only reason I even checked out The Plank (though I prefered the days of Iraq'd).

Now I have one less stop to make during the daily rounds. Well, one less and one more.

Good luck. Good things will come to you. Of that, I would wager a lot.

-Eric Martin (not Peretz)
Blogger Eric | 2:08 PM

Spencer--

You were the best part of TNR. I have to admit that I cancelled my subscription just before the invasion of Iraq because of Beinart and the editor's pushing a moron's effort. But I have looked for your reporting ever since.

I hope you land on your feet soon and start more of your fabulous reporting at an institution that realizes what a gem you are.
Blogger Skanking1 | 11:50 AM

Dear Mr. Ackerman:
To mark your departure from that war-mongering rag you don't spare praise for (with all that about "high standards" and a "90-year tradition") I thought that I would run excerpts from a few of the "classics" from your work, including a 2002 article by you entitled "How to Time War in Iraq" and this from 2003:
"It had the feel of a victory lap. After delivering his devastating Iraq presentation to the U.N. Security Council this week, Secretary of State Colin Powell basked in the adulatory glow of the Sunday morning talk shows. Tim Russert brought the trophy, a Gallup poll showing public trust in Powell eclipsing trust in his boss on the Iraq issue by more than two to one(Powell 63 percent, Bush 24 percent). Powell, with military discipline, waved it off. "I just go about my business and don't worry about polls," he said, with every muscle in his face struggling valiantly to suppress a pie-eating grin."
Blogger Daniel J. McKeown | 11:09 PM