The Weekly Standard is shutting down, owner Clarity Media Group announced Friday, ending one of the only conservative outlets that consistently stood in opposition to the style and politics of President Donald Trump.
The magazine’s final issue, which was completed Thursday, will publish on Dec. 17, Clarity said in a press release. The decision was communicated to staff members at a 10:30 a.m. meeting.
“For more than twenty years The Weekly Standard has provided a valued and important perspective on political, literary and cultural issues of the day,” Clarity Media President and CEO Ryan McKibben said in the statement. “The magazine has been home to some of the industry’s most dedicated and talented staff and I thank them for their hard work and contributions, not just to the publication, but the field of journalism.”
The decision to shutter came after more than a week of uncertainty for employees. Amid rumors of its possible demise, Clarity said 10 days ago that it was “exploring a number of possibilities” for the conservative journal, but executives have remained silent since then, including Clarity owner Philip Anschutz, the billionaire conservative donor.
Rumors had been swirling about the Weekly Standard since Clarity announced that its sister publication, the Washington Examiner, would expand with a weekly conservative magazine with national distribution. With the new Examiner product positioned to take over the Weekly Standard’s corner, management decided to shutter the journal, rather than sell it or allow it to exist in some other form that could create a potential competitor to the newly expanded Examiner.
While the Standard has positioned itself against Trump — its founding editor William Kristol has become one of the most prominent faces of the Never Trump movement — the Examiner has featured a range of opinions on the president.
After being launched in 1995 by Kristol and Fred Barnes, the Standard became so influential during the administration of George W. Bush — as it cheered on the invasion of Iraq — that it became known as the in-flight magazine of Air Force One. But the journal has found itself out of sync with the conservative movement in the age of Trump.
As recently as five years ago, the magazine’s print circulation numbered more than 100,000, but by last year, that number had dropped to 72,000, according to the auditing group BPA Worldwide. Between 2016 and 2017, when Trump took office, paid circulation dropped by about 7,000 or about 10 percent, according to the auditing group.
Weekly Standard staff members feared — and expected — the worst heading into Friday morning’s meeting, but they remained in the dark about what exactly would happen. Even though Clarity asked editor-in-chief Stephen Hayes to arrange an all-staff meeting for Friday, details like the time were not nailed down until a few hours before the gathering started, meaning most staff learned of the meeting first by word of mouth, one person familiar with the situation said.
In Clarity’s press release, McKibben blamed the business climate for media for the Weekly Standard’s demise, though the magazine has never been known as a big moneymaker.
“The Weekly Standard has been hampered by many of the same challenges that countless other magazines and newspapers across the country have been wrestling with,” McKibben wrote. “Despite investing significant resources into the publication, the financial performance of the publication over the last five years — with double-digit declines in its subscriber base all but one year since 2013 — made it clear that a decision had to be made. After careful consideration of all possible options for its future, it became clear that this was the step we needed to take.”
In an email to staff Friday morning, Hayes expressed thanks. “This is a volatile time in American journalism and politics,” he wrote. “Many media outlets have responded to the challenges of the moment by prioritizing affirmation over information, giving into the pull of polarization and the lure of clickbait. I’ll spare you the soapbox and the sanctimony. To put it simply: I’m proud that we’ve remained both conservative and independent, providing substantive reporting and analysis based on facts, logic and reason.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine