On Friday, conservative mainstay magazine The Weekly Standard was shuttered after 23 years of weekly publication. The ownership of the magazine, Clarity Media, held a meeting with staffers at the magazine in which they announced that everyone was to clear out their offices by 5 p.m., then released this statement:
For more than twenty years The Weekly Standard has provided a valued and important perspective on political, literary and cultural issues of the day. The magazine has been home to some of the industry’s most dedicated and talented staff and I thank them for their hard work and contributions, not just to the publication, but the field of journalism. Despite investing significant resources into the publication, the financial performance of the publication over the last five years — with double-digit declines in its subscriber base all but one year since 2013 — made it clear that a decision had to be made. After careful consideration of all possible options for its future, it became clear that this was the step we needed to take.
Editor-in-Chief Stephen Hayes told staff, “To put it simply: I’m proud that we’ve remained both conservative and independent, providing substantive reporting and analysis based on facts, logic and reason.”
As John Podhoretz, a co-founder of the magazine, has noted, Clarity made no effort to sell the brand. Instead, they sought to integrate the subscribers of the Standard into the subscriber base of their new Washington Examiner weekly magazine.
The death of The Weekly Standard has spurred accusations that the magazine was shuttered for its anti-Trump position. But that neglects the fact that the new editor of the Washington Examiner magazine is Seth Mandel, another Trump-skeptical conservative. While the Standard may have taken a more stridently anti-Trump position than any other conservative outlet, it was far from the only outlet to oppose many of President Trump’s policies as well as critiquing his lack of moral fiber. The biggest problem for the Standard, at least in the mainstream conservative mind, was the consistently anti-Trump tone taken by many of its leading voices, even when Trump was accomplishing conservative goals. To a large extent, this was due to the ideological shadow cast by longtime Standard editor-in-chief Bill Kristol, who has been loudly proclaiming that he is seeking a primary alternative to Trump in 2020.
In any case, the demise of The Weekly Standard is indeed a tragedy for commentary. I spent years subscribing to it; the writing was unparalleled, the analysis brilliant. The magazine had one of the best staffs around, and injected a much-needed dose of cultural awareness into the conservative movement. Its death doesn’t signal a serious sea change in conservatism so much as a branding failure on the part of the magazine, and a cutthroat decision on the part of its owners.