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Clarity, please: what’s happening to the Weekly Standard?

Rumor has it that the Standard owners have been searching for a buyer for months

December 4, 2018

4:35 PM

4 December 2018

4:35 PM

Well, well, what’s this? Cockburn was intrigued to learn about a new ‘weekly magazine,’ owned by Clarity Media Group, ‘providing a conservative perspective on the events of the day,’ featuring ‘stories about the evolving social culture and mores of America’ with ‘life and culture content and a nationwide subscriber footprint’ that’s been ‘a vital voice in the nation’s politics.’

Even many beyond the gossip channels of Washington would recognize that as an apt description of the Weekly Standard, the conservative stalwart founded by Bill Kristol and friends 23 years ago. But those words come from a press release touting the launch of a different publication — a new magazine from the Washington Examiner, the successful but web-centric opinion house also owned by Colorado magnate Philip Anschutz through his subsidiary Clarity.

Even a billionaire with holdings as diverse as the hipster Coachella Music Festival, the movie studio behind the Christian Narnia films (Walden Media), and sports teams like the Los Angeles Galaxy, Lakers, and Kings doesn’t need two magazines of virtually the same description. So within minutes of Clarity’s announcement, Cockburn started hearing tongues wagging about the future of theStandard. Like many conservative publications, the Standard has struggled to find its way in the era of pro-tariff, anti-nicety Republican president Donald Trump. But even longtime critics of the magazine, and there are many, confess to finding it difficult to believe a grand and once-influential publication could disappear. TWS is still a bastion of intelligent right-wing journalism — notwithstanding the arrival of, ahem, Spectator USA. But then, the rumors are now roaring outside of the magazine’s precincts on 15th Street, where it shares office space (for now, of course) with the about-to-expand Examiner. Cockburn would feel remiss if he didn’t pass them on.

It won’t be the first time the Examiner has remade itself. As the Hill pointed out in its story on the change (which didn’t mention the Standard except to note the two publications share an owner), ‘The Examiner has undergone changes before, most notably in June 2013 when it ended publication as a daily print paper, dropping its coverage of local Washington news and relaunching as a weekly magazine focused on national politics. The shakeup resulted in the layoffs of nearly 90 employees.’

Cockburn hears a rumour that Anschutz, unhappy with the Standard’s anti-Trump tilt (founder Fred Barnes being an exception), had been shopping the magazine around for months with no luck. He bought it in 2009 from its founding patron, Rupert Murdoch, who tired of losing money on the magazine after he obtained a bigger new toy, the Wall Street Journal. No one at the Standard would comment on the rumors that the most literary and well-regarded magazine in conservative journalism will end its run by the end of the month — not even with editor Stephen Hayes a continent away on a sabbatical in Spain.

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