21 January 2007

An Intelligent Conversation?

Indulge me in a moment of pleasure and optimism: The Atlantic and Andrew Sullivan are teaming up. Sullivan's blog will be folded into The Atlantic's website and he will become one of their senior editors.

Andrew Sullivan is a thinker I've inexplicably enjoyed since his time as editor at The New Republic 15 years ago. I say inexplicably not because his tone, erudition, and writing lack obvious appeal. I say inexplicably because I'm not conservative, Catholic, or gay - as he is. In spite of our differences in worldview, I find his ideas compelling.

The Atlantic is, for me, the epitome of good journalism. It is intelligent, thoughtful, and reluctant to rush to a conclusion when the data suggests no easy answer. I suppose no one source has had more influence on my political sensibilities; I began reading it in my late teens, more than a quarter of a century ago.

The Atlantic is more like a book than a magazine in that its articles have a shelf life rather like wine; a blog, by contrast, typically has a shelf life more like milk. Given it comes out only 10 times a year, The Atlantic is somewhat like a prepared speech to which one listens. A blog, by contrast, is more like a conversation in which one engages. (but is, sadly enough, too often like a conversation with someone suffering from ADD).

This merger of the magazine’s magazine with a pioneering blog suggests a tantalizing possibility: an intelligent conversation that occurs in real time but has, for its context, larger issues than the distraction of the day. If The Atlantic is able to merge the instantaneous, interactive nature of blogs with its mastery of showcasing ideas that deserve reprint 150 years later, they may well have a product that is able to transform the national conversation. If they succeed at this, I will become a real fan. That is, instead of merely admiring the magazine, I will wear a NFL style jersey in public that, in lieu of a name like “Tomlinson” or "Manning" has “Sullivan” or fellow Atlantic editor “Fallows” written across the back.

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