||Nasty barbs fly between
New Republic and Economist
of those snooty British things'
By Rebecca Finkel
It's terrible when the British
In June, The New Republic ran a story by noted British writer
Andrew Sullivan bashing, of all things, The Economist. Sullivan, a witty writer on so many
topics, calls the British newsweekly "a kind of Readers Digest for the
By overclass he means Americas corporate elite.
"Its written in the kind of Oxbridge prose that rips
felicitously into one ear and out the other, and it subtly flatters some Americans into
feeling that they are sitting in on a combination of an English senior common room and a
seminar at Davos," writes Sullivan.
These are harsh words. They get harsher. "The
closer you look, the weaker [The Economist] gets. Beneath the shrewd blizzard of
one-liners, Oxford Union ripostes, and snazzy graphs, the little secret of The Economist
is that it actually contains less original reporting than many other newsmagazines."
Truth be told, writes Sullivan, the magazine relies on stringers to rip off reporting from
Sullivan blasts the magazine for its lush
profitability--$40 million or so a yearits stiff subscription price--$125 a
yearand its wealthy American readership.
Why are Americans so enamored of a magazine with so many
failings? A genius for marketing, explains Sullivan.
Officially, The Economist offers no response to Sullivans
attack. But thats officially.
Unofficially U.S. marketing director Humphry Rolleston has
a lot to say.
"We were slightly stunned," says Rolleston of the story,
which ran on The New Republics cover. "That The Economist was more important
than Kosovo or the new governments in Israel or South Africa to put on the front pages is
"I can't imagine we'd put The New Republic on the front page
of The Economist," he says. "Why their readers would be interested in us is
bewildering. It's just weird."
He dismisses Sullivans attack as "one of those
snooty British things." Says Rolleston: "They're just jealous because we make so
"This is a tribute to the fact that we are
successful. I can't imagine this would have happened when I first came to America. Now
that we are visible we are a fair target. We have become respectable," says
Rolleston, who has been in the U.S. 16 years.
He notes that while Sullivan takes issue with reliability of some
of The Economists market predictionsthe writer suggests that investors who
followed the magazines advice would soon be unable to afford a subscriptionThe
New Republic has some creditability issues of its own to deal with. The political journal
got a lot of unwanted attention a year or so ago when one of its most respected young
writers was exposed for fabricating stories.
"I quite like The New Republic," says
Rolleston. "They make up their stories. What was it? The editor of Forbes had to
point out to them that the companies they were reporting on didn't exist. Oh, I enjoy the
Rolleston finds only one contention in the Sullivan
piece that he's inclined to agree with: Sullivan's back-handed praise for The Economist's
"He said we have brilliant marketing. Call me crazy but I'm not going to disagree
-Rebecca Finkel is a
staff writer for Media Life.