How Not to Be a Publicist

I found that many of the people I spoke with suspected the real changes at [The New Republic] would come at the expense of Leon Wieseltier — who had his own charmed life as the oldest young man in the room…. Wieseltier ruled a sort of archipelago of learnedness in the magazine’s back pages — haunted by its own testy thoroughgoing-ness, dense with type and argument, and deliberately off-putting. “In the old days, I used to get shit from certain people about difficult words or references,” Wieseltier says. “The irony now is that I just smile and say, ‘Google it.’ I have no conscience about that anymore.” His culture section, which often made up nearly half of each issue, was supposed to have nothing to do with the rest of the magazine at all.

But Hughes wants a single, readable magazine — with photographs! — not two stapled together, and this will entail treating Wieseltier, as one person familiar with the magazine put it, as an employee for the first time. This brewing tension was presumably why, when I was being regaled, quite pleasantly, by Wieseltier, we were interrupted twice by the magazine’s publicist, encouraging us to “wrap it up” by order of the “powers that be.”

— A little look inside the new New Republic, where the publicist is not doing things right.