The Atlantic

Magazine and multi-platform publisher

  • Moses Dresser Phillips
  • Francis H. Underwood
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Founded1857; 167 years ago (1857)First issueNovember 1, 1857; 166 years ago (1857-11-01) (as The Atlantic Monthly)CompanyEmerson CollectiveCountryUnited StatesBased inWashington, D.C., U.S.[2]LanguageEnglishWebsitetheatlantic.comISSN1072-7825 (print)
2151-9463 (web)OCLC936540106

The Atlantic is an American magazine and multi-platform publisher. It features articles in the fields of politics, foreign affairs, business and the economy, culture and the arts, technology, and science.[3]

It was founded in 1857 in Boston as The Atlantic Monthly, a literary and cultural magazine that published leading writers' commentary on education, the abolition of slavery, and other major political issues of that time. Its founders included Francis H. Underwood[4][5] and prominent writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Greenleaf Whittier.[6][7] James Russell Lowell was its first editor.[8] In addition, The Atlantic Monthly Almanac was an annual almanac published for Atlantic Monthly readers during the 19th and 20th centuries.[9] A change of name was not officially announced when the format first changed from a strict monthly (appearing 12 times a year) to a slightly lower frequency. It was a monthly magazine for 144 years until 2001, when it published 11 issues; it has published 10 issues yearly since 2003. It dropped "Monthly" from the cover beginning with the January/February 2004 issue, and officially changed the name in 2007.

After experiencing financial hardship and undergoing several ownership changes in the late 20th century, the magazine was purchased by businessman David G. Bradley, who refashioned it as a general editorial magazine primarily aimed at serious national readers and "thought leaders".[10] In 2016, the periodical was named Magazine of the Year from the American Society of Magazine Editors.[11] In July 2017, Bradley sold a majority interest in the publication to Laurene Powell Jobs's Emerson Collective.[12][13][14]

In 2021 and 2022, its writers won Pulitzer Prizes for feature writing and, in 2022, 2023, and 2024 it won the award for general excellence by the American Society of Magazine Editors.

The website's executive editor is Adrienne LaFrance, the editor-in-chief is Jeffrey Goldberg, and the CEO is Nicholas Thompson. The magazine publishes 10 times a year.[15] In 2024, it was reported that the magazine had crossed one million subscribers and become profitable after, three years prior, losing twenty million dollars a year and laying off 17% of its staff.

Founding

19th century

James Russell Lowell, the first editor of The Atlantic

In the autumn of 1857, Moses Dresser Phillips, a publisher from Boston, created The Atlantic Monthly. The plan for the magazine was launched at a dinner party, which was described in a letter by Phillips:

I must tell you about a little dinner-party I gave about two weeks ago. It would be proper, perhaps, to state the origin of it was a desire to confer with my literary friends on a somewhat extensive literary project, the particulars of which I shall reserve till you come. But to the Party: My invitations included only R. W. Emerson, H. W. Longfellow, J. R. Lowell, Mr. Motley (the 'Dutch Republic' man), O. W. Holmes, Mr. Cabot, and Mr. Underwood, our literary man. Imagine your uncle as the head of such a table, with such guests. The above named were the only ones invited, and they were all present. We sat down at three P.M., and rose at eight. The time occupied was longer by about four hours and thirty minutes than I am in the habit of consuming in that kind of occupation, but it was the richest time intellectually by all odds that I have ever had. Leaving myself and 'literary man' out of the group, I think you will agree with me that it would be difficult to duplicate that number of such conceded scholarship in the whole country besides... Each one is known alike on both sides of the Atlantic, and is read beyond the limits of the English language.[16]

At that dinner he announced his idea for the magazine:

Mr. Cabot is much wiser than I am. Dr. Holmes can write funnier verses than I can. Mr. Motley can write history better than I. Mr. Emerson is a philosopher and I am not. Mr. Lowell knows more of the old poets than I. But none of you knows the American people as well as I do.[16]

The Atlantic's first issue was published in November 1857, and quickly gained notability as one of the finest magazines in the English-speaking world.

In 1878, the magazine absorbed The Galaxy, a competitor monthly magazine founded a dozen years previously by William Conant Church and his brother Francis P. Church; it had published works by Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Ion Hanford Perdicaris and Henry James.[17]

In 1879, The Atlantic had offices in Winthrop Square in Boston and at 21 Astor Place in New York City.[18]

Literary history

In February 1862, The Atlantic was first to publish the "Battle Hymn of the Republic"
The magazine's office Ticknor & Fields at 124 Tremont Street in Boston, c. 1868[19]

A leading literary magazine, The Atlantic has published many significant works and authors. It was the first to publish pieces by the abolitionists Julia Ward Howe ("Battle Hymn of the Republic" on February 1, 1862), and William Parker, whose slave narrative, "The Freedman's Story" was published in February and March 1866. It also published Charles W. Eliot's "The New Education", a call for practical reform that led to his appointment to the presidency of Harvard University in 1869, works by Charles Chesnutt before he collected them in The Conjure Woman (1899), and poetry and short stories, and helped launch many national literary careers.[citation needed] In 2005, the magazine won a National Magazine Award for fiction.[20]

Editors have recognized major cultural changes and movements. For example, of the emerging writers of the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway had his short story "Fifty Grand" published in the July 1927 edition. Harking back to its abolitionist roots, in its August 1963 edition, at the height of the civil rights movement, the magazine published Martin Luther King Jr.'s defense of civil disobedience, "Letter from Birmingham Jail".[21]

The magazine has published speculative articles that inspired the development of new technologies. The classic example is Vannevar Bush's essay "As We May Think" (July 1945), which inspired Douglas Engelbart and later Ted Nelson to develop the modern workstation and hypertext technology.[22][23]

The Atlantic Monthly founded the Atlantic Monthly Press in 1917; for many years, it was operated in partnership with Little, Brown and Company. Its published books included Drums Along the Mohawk (1936) and Blue Highways (1982). The press was sold in 1986; today it is an imprint of Grove Atlantic.[24]

In addition to publishing notable fiction and poetry, The Atlantic has emerged in the 21st century as an influential platform for longform storytelling and newsmaker interviews. Influential cover stories have included Anne Marie Slaughter's "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" (2012) and Ta-Nehisi Coates's "A Case for Reparations" (2014).[25] In 2015, Jeffrey Goldberg's "Obama Doctrine" was widely discussed by American media and prompted response by many world leaders.[26]

As of 2022, writers and frequent contributors to the print magazine included James Fallows, Jeffrey Goldberg, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Caitlin Flanagan, Jonathan Rauch, McKay Coppins, Gillian White, Adrienne LaFrance, Vann R. Newkirk II, Derek Thompson, David Frum, Jennifer Senior, George Packer, Ed Yong, and James Parker.

Political viewpoint

In 1860, three years into publication, The Atlantic's then-editor James Russell Lowell endorsed Republican Abraham Lincoln for his first run for president and also endorsed the abolition of slavery.[27]

In 1964, Edward Weeks wrote on behalf of the editorial board in endorsing Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson and rebuking Republican Barry Goldwater's candidacy.[28]

In 2016, during the 2016 presidential campaign, the editorial board endorsed a candidate for the third time in the magazine's history, urging readers to support Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in a rebuke of Republican Donald Trump's candidacy.[29]

After Trump prevailed in the November 2016 election, the magazine became a strong critic of him. In March 2019, a cover article by editor Yoni Appelbaum called for the impeachment of Donald Trump: "It's time for Congress to judge the president's fitness to serve."[30][31][32]

In September 2020, it published a story, citing several anonymous sources, reporting that Trump referred to dead American soldiers as "losers".[33] Trump called it a "fake story", and suggested the magazine would soon be out of business.[34][35]

In 2020, The Atlantic endorsed the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, and urged its readers to oppose Trump's re-election bid.[36]

Format

Aspen Ideas Festival

In 2005, The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute launched the Aspen Ideas Festival, a ten-day event in and around the city of Aspen, Colorado.[37] The annual conference features 350 presenters, 200 sessions, and 3,000 attendees. The event has been called a "political who's who" as it often features policymakers, journalists, lobbyists, and think tank leaders.[38]

On January 22, 2008, TheAtlantic.com dropped its subscriber wall and allowed users to freely browse its site, including all past archives.[39] By 2011 The Atlantic's web properties included TheAtlanticWire.com, a news- and opinion-tracking site launched in 2009,[40] and TheAtlanticCities.com, a stand-alone website started in 2011 that was devoted to global cities and trends.[41] According to a Mashable profile in December 2011, "traffic to the three web properties recently surpassed 11 million uniques per month, up a staggering 2500% since The Atlantic brought down its paywall in early 2008."[42]

The Atlantic Wire

In 2009, it launched The Atlantic Wire, the sister site of The Atlantic's online presence, TheAtlantic.com.[clarification needed] It initially served to the purpose of aggregating news and opinions from online, print, radio, and television outlets.[43][44][45] At its launch, it published op-eds from across the media spectrum and summarized significant positions in each debate.[45] It later expanded to feature news and original reporting.

Regular features in the magazine included "What I Read", describing the media diets of people from entertainment, journalism, and politics; and "Trimming the Times",[46] the feature editor's summary of the best content in The New York Times. The Atlantic Wire rebranded itself as The Wire in November 2013,[47] and was folded back into The Atlantic the following year.[48]

In August 2011, it created its video channel.[49] Initially created as an aggregator, The Atlantic's video component, Atlantic Studios, has since evolved in an in-house production studio that creates custom video series and original documentaries.[50]

CityLab

In September 2011, it launched CityLab, a separate website. Its co-founders included Richard Florida, urban theorist and professor. The stand-alone site has been described as exploring and explaining "the most innovative ideas and pressing issues facing today's global cities and neighborhoods."[51] In 2014, it was rebranded as CityLab.com, and covers transportation, environment, equity, life, and design. Among its offerings are Navigator, "a guide to urban life"; and Solutions, which covers solutions to problems in a dozen topics.[52]

In December 2011, a new Health Channel launched on TheAtlantic.com, incorporating coverage of food, as well as topics related to the mind, body, sex, family, and public health. Its launch was overseen by Nicholas Jackson, who had previously been overseeing the Life channel and initially joined the website to cover technology.[53] TheAtlantic.com has also expanded to visual storytelling, with the addition of the "In Focus" photo blog, curated by Alan Taylor.[54]

In 2015, TheAtlantic.com launched a dedicated Science section[55] and in January 2016 it redesigned and expanded its politics section in conjunction with the 2016 U.S. presidential race.[56]

In 2015, CityLab and Univision launched CityLab Latino, which features original journalism in Spanish as well as translated reporting from the English language edition of CityLab.com.[57] The site has not been updated since 2018.

In early December 2019, Atlantic Media sold CityLab to Bloomberg Media,[58][59] which promptly laid off half the staff.[60] The site was relaunched on June 18, 2020, with few major changes other than new branding and linking the site with other Bloomberg verticals and its data terminal.[61]

In September 2019, TheAtlantic.com introduced a digital subscription model, restricting unsubscribed readers' access to five free articles per month.[62][63]

In June 2020, The Atlantic released its first full-length documentary, White Noise, a film about three alt-right activists.[64]

Praise, retractions, legal issues, and controversies

  • In June 2006, the Chicago Tribune named The Atlantic one of the top ten English-language magazines, describing it as the "150-year-old granddaddy of periodicals" because "it keeps us smart and in the know" with cover stories on the then-forthcoming fight over Roe v. Wade. It also lauded regular features such as "Word Fugitives" and "Primary Sources" as "cultural barometers".[65]
  • On January 14, 2013, The Atlantic's website published "sponsor content" promoting David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology. While the magazine had previously published advertising looking like articles, this was widely criticized. The page comments were moderated by the marketing team, not by editorial staff, and comments critical of the church were being removed. Later that day, The Atlantic removed the piece from its website and issued an apology.[66][67][68]
  • In 2019, the magazine published an expose on the allegations against movie director Bryan Singer that "sent Singer's career into a tailspin". It was originally contracted to Esquire magazine, but the writers moved it there due to what New York Times reporter Ben Smith described as Hearst magazines' "timid" nature. "There's not a lot of nuance here", Jeffrey Goldberg said. "They spiked a story that should have been published in the public interest for reasons unknown."[69]
  • In June 2020, The Atlantic faced legal action in Japan that claimed defamation and invasion of privacy in the article "When the Presses Stop" by Molly Ball, published in the January/February 2018 edition, which led to numerous corrections after a settlement was reached in January 2024. The lawsuit highlighted fact-checking and ethical concerns, bringing attention to the magazine's editorial practices.[70][71][72]
  • On November 1, 2020, The Atlantic retracted an article, "The Mad, Mad World of Niche Sports Among Ivy League–Obsessed Parents", after an inquiry by The Washington Post. An 800-word editor's note said, "We cannot attest to the trustworthiness and credibility of the author, and therefore we cannot attest to the veracity of the article." The article's author, freelancer Ruth Shalit Barrett, had left the staff of The New Republic in 1999 amid allegations of plagiarism.[73][74] On January 7, 2022, Barrett sued the magazine for defamation. The lawsuit claimed The Atlantic misrepresented Barrett's background and destroyed her journalistic career through what it publicly said about her.[75][76] In legal filings, Barrett argued that The Atlantic's handling of allegations and errors in another article written by Molly Ball demonstrated inconsistency in the magazine's editorial standards and accountability measures. Barrett asserted that the factual inaccuracies and ethical violations in Ball's piece, as highlighted by a separate defamation lawsuit that resulted in a settlement and numerous corrections to the story, were “transgressions far more numerous and incomparably worse” than any mistakes attributed to her own work.[77][72]
  • On February 5, 2024, The Atlantic cut ties with well-known contributor Yascha Mounk after he was accused of rape. He called the allegation "categorically untrue."[78]

Ownership and editors

The cover of the first issue of The Atlantic, published November 1, 1857

By its third year, it was published by Boston publishing house Ticknor and Fields, which later became part of Houghton Mifflin,[citation needed] based in the city known for literary culture. The magazine was purchased in 1908 by editor at the time, Ellery Sedgwick, and remained in Boston.

In 1980, the magazine was acquired by Mortimer Zuckerman, property magnate and founder of Boston Properties, who became its chairman. On September 27, 1999, Zuckerman transferred ownership of the magazine to David G. Bradley, owner of the National Journal Group, which focused on Washington, D.C. and federal government news. Bradley had promised that the magazine would stay in Boston for the foreseeable future, as it did for the next five-and-a-half years.

In April 2005, however, the publishers announced that the editorial offices would be moved from their longtime home at 77 North Washington Street in Boston to join the company's advertising and circulation divisions in Washington, D.C.[79] Later in August, Bradley told The New York Observer that the move was not made to save money—near-term savings would be $200,000–$300,000, a relatively small amount that would be swallowed by severance-related spending—but instead would serve to create a hub in Washington, D.C., where the top minds from all of Bradley's publications could collaborate under the Atlantic Media Company umbrella. Few of the Boston staff agreed to move, and Bradley then commenced an open search for a new editorial staff.[80]

In 2006, Bradley hired James Bennet, the Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times, as editor-in-chief. Bradley also hired Jeffrey Goldberg and Andrew Sullivan as writers for the magazine.[81]

In 2008, Jay Lauf joined the organization as publisher and vice-president; as of 2017, he was publisher and president of Quartz.[82]

In early 2014, Bennet and Bob Cohn became co-presidents of The Atlantic, and Cohn became the publication's sole president in March 2016 when Bennet was tapped to lead The New York Times's editorial page.[83][84] Jeffrey Goldberg was named editor-in-chief in October 2016.[85]

On July 28, 2017, The Atlantic announced that billionaire investor and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs (the widow of former Apple Inc. chairman and CEO Steve Jobs) had acquired majority ownership through her Emerson Collective organization, with a staff member of Emerson Collective, Peter Lattman, being immediately named as vice chairman of The Atlantic. David G. Bradley and Atlantic Media retained a minority share position in this sale.[86]

In May 2019, technology journalist Adrienne LaFrance became executive editor.[87]

In December 2020, former Wired editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson was named CEO of The Atlantic.[88]

List of editors

See also

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External links

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The Atlantic Monthly
  • Official website
  • "A History of The Atlantic" (archived 23 October 1997)
  • The Atlantic archival writings by topic
  • archive.org Online archive of The Atlantic (earliest issues 1857 up to 2016)
  • Hathi Trust. Atlantic Monthly digitized issues, 1857–
  • An early history of The Atlantic from The Literary Digest (1897)
  • Atlantic Monthly records, at the University of Maryland libraries
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