While Opinion Magazines Die or Transmorgify, Your Donations Keep Reason Libertarian
We are rounding into the home stretch of Reason‘s annual Webathon, in which we ask those who enjoy reading, watching, and listening to our libertarian journalism and commentary to consider gifting us with a tax-deductible donation so that we can continue harassing government institutions with Freedom of Information Act requests, making crazy/funny/infuriating videos that you can share with your mom, debunking media myths, defending free speech, answering all (or at least most) of your questions, leading the universe in criminal justice reporting, gleefully participating in one technological advance after another, and so forth.
As the clock approaches midnight, you have already made this the second-most successful Webathon in the decade-plus that Reason has been doing this. Can you fill that orange box to the revised goal of $300,000? Dare you venture even further, and make this the highest grossing annual fundraiser of all time?
Say, do you remember The New Republic? Well, here’s what progressivism’s century-old flagship magazine is up to lately.
The New Republic in 2019 is a bit different from The New Republic of 2009 pic.twitter.com/k5TU0Kwru5
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) December 6, 2019
The always-interesting Twitter follow Wesley Yang has some thoughts about that, but I would just amplify Zaid Jilani’s original point: Whatever TNR is now bears little resemblance to what it was five years ago, seven years ago, or 10 years ago, let alone the very different visions Marty Peretz had for the thing during his various star-crossed runs as publisher. That’s because its ownership model depends on the whims of whatever millionaire has decided to lose money on the thing this year.
Reason‘s ownership model, on the other hand, depends on you, its most active and dedicated consumers.
Read up on our visionary founding editor Lanny Friedlander, and on the three-headed monster of Robert Poole, Manny Klausner, and the late Tibor Machan who took the baton from Friedlander and made Reason a going concern, and one overriding relationship jumps out: This magazine since its founding in 1968 was a labor of love among its creators, and a facilitator of intense conversation and even life changes among its audience.
As Poole told historian-of-the-libertarian-movement Brian Doherty back in 2008, “until the Reason Foundation started in ’78 there was never more than one paid person….We also didn’t have a budget. The most we ever paid for an article was $25 in the days before the Reason Foundation, and a lot of times not anything.” Can you even wrap your head around that? A magazine goes from 0 to around 30,000 circulation in a decade, with legendary policy pieces, interviews, and covers, and there’s basically no employees and no budget. Got it.
Perhaps counterintuitively, these humble beginnings make Reason more resilient than the vast majority of publication competing in our opinion-journalism space. Evolving into a 501(c)3 nonprofit—one that for the past three decades has been doing a ton of important, details-oriented work streamlining, downsizing, and privatizing government operations at all levels—has built a stable floor under the operations, sure. But it’s one constructed by literal fans of the magazine that Friedlander created and Poole/Klausner/Machan willed into being. There is no mercurial moneybags standing behind the operation, pulling puppet strings hither and yon, yanking editorial focus in ways that make the archives unrecognizable. There were never any record-scratch breaks between the regimes of Zupan, Postrel, Gillespie, Welch, and Mangu-Ward.
That is why this Webathon is so important. Just the sheer number of donors, at whatever level, makes it easier to weather whatever economic and political storms lie beyond all of our current fields of vision. When there’s thousands of y’all, it just will not matter if the one with the biggest monocle thunders, “Pivot to video!” (Though that’s also because we were developing that expertise long before it was a Facebook-generated fad.)
The beating heart of this enterprise is the relationship between what we produce and how you consume. Not just in clicks, but in intensity, affiliation, interaction, amusement. Your gifts are a ratification that this magnificent enterprise, in approach and performance, is trending in the right direction and worth egging on. Every single donation makes us more resilient.
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