National Journal publishes its last print edition, takes a look back at its 46 years of publishing
Launched in 1969, the magazine had in recent years moves away from subscriptions to a membership model, but now the political magazine is being shuttered, though the website and a newsletter will remain live
The last issue of National Journal has been published, and with it the end of run that started in 1969. The final issue, as you would expect, is a look back at its 46 years of publishing.
The magazine’s parent company, Atlantic Media, sent out a press release (which you can read below), as well as a copy of the cover. If you click on the cover photo at right a larger version will pop-up and you can then begin to guess all the names of those being portrayed. But if you want to cheat, here is a PDF that will reveal the names.
“After a great deal of reflection — and all the modeling and scenario planning you would expect — I’ve decided that the National Journal should move the whole of its journalism to the higher-velocity work of our daily publications, National Journal Daily and Hotline, and to our hour-by-hour coverage on NationalJournal.com,” Atlantic Media Chairman David Bradley said in July when announcing that the print weekly edition would be shuttered.
One year earlier, the magazine also made news when the decision was made to shut off comments to everyone but those who were paying members. As it cost $25K to be a member, there weren’t many who would be able to use the comment area, but the editors were responding to the increasingly negative and vile tone of comments from many readers (trolls, if you like).
“The problem isn’t unique to National Journal; it crops up on almost every news site,” editor-in-chief Tim Grieve wrote on the magazine’s website. “Some sites have responded by devoting substantial time and effort to monitoring and editing comments, but we’d rather put our resources into the journalism that brings readers to National Journal in the first place. So, today we’ll join the growing number of sites that are choosing to forgo public comments on most stories.”
National Journal was first published in 1969 and was for a number of years part of Times Mirror, owner of the Los Angeles Times. In 1997 it was purchased by David Bradley, and along with The Hotline, made part of a new group, National Journal Group (a division of Atlantic Media Company).
“From the start, National Journal provided in-depth coverage of national policy and politics for an audience primarily of Washington decision-makers—in Congress, the White House, Cabinet departments, and agencies—and the constellation of think tanks, media organizations, law firms, and lobbyists all around them,” Ronald Brownstein wrote on Friday on the magazine’s website.
“The product was far from perfect. It could become windy and insular. (I used to joke it was the only magazine in America whose subscription list and index almost completely overlapped.) Those flaws left it vulnerable when a new wave of nimble competitors covering the Washington scene emerged over the past decade. National Journal was also weakened by the declining relevance of the weekly magazine format in the 24-hour news-cycle era,” Brownstein said.
“But mostly, I think the magazine’s position deteriorated because the market for its core product eroded as our political system has grown more rigidly partisan.”
The print edition is now history, unless Atlantic Media wants to see the name and archives to another publisher. What remains will be the brand’s website and the newsletter.
Here is the announcement for the last issue:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – December 14, 2015 — The final issue of National Journal magazine, available now, is a retrospective look back at its forty-six years and the legacy it leaves behind. Centered around a feature from former National Journal writer Jonathan Rauch on the magazine’s impact on Washington journalism, the issue features a collection of memories and highlights from dozens of past and present NJ reporters and leaders. Contributors include Stuart Taylor, Charlie Green, Ron Brownstein, Timothy Clark and former publisher John Fox Sullivan.
As an attempt to capture the last 46 years of Washington history in a single image, National Journal’s cover is a where’s-Waldo-style illustration featuring drawings of the 250 most important players in DC during the magazine’s lifespan.
National Journal magazine editor Richard Just addresses the closing of the magazine in a final “From the Editor” letter, in which he writes: “There is one theme that is abundantly clear from these recollections—and it too is part of this tradition of this place: National Journal has always been a magazine with a streak of idealism.”
In, “The Magazine’s Mark,” Jonathan Rauch tells the story of National Journal from its launch in 1969 as an in-depth, nonpartisan coverage of the government, and how National Journal changed Washington journalism for good. As Rauch writes, “The trade journals were detailed, the newsmagazines were comprehensive, and the better newspapers aimed for objective. But NJ, to a unique extent, provided the whole package, adding an element of insider sophistication all its own.”
An inside look offers dozens of reminiscences of what made National Journal stand out. Charlie Green delves into his most vivid memories from his 16 years at National Journal and concludes that, “distinctive journalism was the key to National Journal’s success.” Timothy Clark discusses how National Journal appealed to executive agencies, the White House, and innumerable interest groups by becoming the authoritative source about, and for, insiders. While Marilyn Werber Serafini reflects on why journalists stayed at National Journal for years—often for decades—because “we enjoyed something that did not exist at most other news outlets: We could pursue projects that took time.”
The issue also includes twists on several sections that have defined National Journal for many years:
- POLITICAL CONNECTIONS: “Facts, R.I.P.” by Ron Brownstein — An obituary for a magazine and for the capital it chronicled, which once prized evidence over ideology.
- THE COOK REPORT: “Why I Was An NJ Addict” by Charlie Cook — The magazine you’re holding is one I’ve loved for 45 years.
- The Political Insiders are asked to make one prediction about the next 10 years in American politics.
- A History of National Journal Magazine From Its Covers — A look back at how the magazine’s look changed over the course of 46 years.
- For decades, these pages featured Washington’s up-and-comers as well as its movers and shakers. The “People” section looks at what’s become of some of the faces of issues past.
- The Index was a National Journal institution that reflected the magazine’s dedication to serving its readers. In the magazine, National Journal staff looks back on their favorite entries—the quirky, the wonky, the impenetrable—from the magazine’s first decades.
These stories are available in the December 13 edition of National Journal magazine and online at NationalJournal.com.