Wednesday, March 24, 2010

First Things clip show

If you've read every previous issue, the 20th anniversary issue of First Things included one bit of elaboration on its history in Joseph Bottum's column.
Richard [Richard John Neuhuas] and Jim [James Nuechterlein] had been putting out, for Rockford [The Rockford Institute], a newsletter called The Religion and Society Report and a quarterly journal of scholarly and public-intellectual articles called This World—and, deprived [by Rockford's "raid"] of those entities, they decided to join the two kinds of publication into a single new magazine. As anyone in publishing could testify, it was not an immediately obvious or intuitive combination: Newsletters were big business in those pre-Internet days, and public-intellectual journals held an important position in national discourse. The two swam in different ends of the great pool of American journalism, however, and their joining seemed to promise only a disjointed and discombobulated thing.

But, somehow, the combination worked—the newsletter transmogrified into The Public Square at the back of every issue, and the quarterly morphed into a monthly analysis of religion and public life.

The anniversary issue includes a facsimile of The New York Times May 16, 1989 report on the split with Rockford. Contrary to the impression left by Father Neuhaus's jibes in The Public Square, The Times is apparently essential reading after all.

Besides the column, everything else in the issue was reprinted from the previous twenty years' issues. The quote above might have made a good blog post; it could have included links to the online versions of selected items. The anniversary issue might have instead had original articles surveying the two decades, and the place of First Things in them. Some self-criticism might have been in order; better now than in a final issue.

But print or online, may they never speak of The Rockford Raid again.

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