As this issue is the last that your editor will supervise before turning over his blue pencil to Senior Editor Brian C. Anderson’s capable hands, perhaps you won’t mind pausing for a backward glance at what City Journal has accomplished over the last dozen years. During that time, it became one of the country’s most influential conservative magazines—perhaps even, as our friend Peggy Noonan likes to say, “the best magazine in America.”
Right at the start of those
12 years, Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York, and City Journal had the extraordinarily good fortune of being an urban policy magazine whose chief reader was busily putting its ideas into practice. Holding up one of his own collection of back issues of
City Journal at a Manhattan Institute dinner not long ago, Giuliani began paging through, recalling some of the stories he’d found suggestive. If it were possible to plagiarize policies, Giuliani mused, well, he’d plagiarized his from our magazine. As one of his aides later recalled, the city hall staff used to pore over each new issue, mining for ideas they could turn into reality.
All that was heady for us, of course. But what was even more gratifying was that, lo and behold, the ideas (especially in the hands of a world-historical leader) actually worked, and they helped to transform a moribund city back into the glittering capital of the twentieth century—and beyond. Journalists can hardly ask for more.
Then came 9/11. When the planes hit the towers, we junked the Autumn issue that we were just about to send
to the press and started over, with plans for rebuilding Ground Zero. New York had become a World City in a
new way, and City Journal had to widen its focus. We had been the bible of the urban-reform movement, the textbook of urban and domestic policy. But now we began to write about the War on Terror and Islam, too.
To all our subjects we have brought a consistent worldview, beginning with a commitment to clear, precise,
stylish, thickly reported, and above all truthful writing—
by some of the best writers in the English-speaking world. City Journal is emphatically a conservative magazine, but we are undoctrinaire, non-party-line conservatives, perhaps
because so many of us began on the Left and had to think our way out of it. The result
is that we can see at least
two sides of most questions, and we are acutely aware of the danger of making the facts fit a theory rather than vice versa. As part of trying to
render reality accurately, we have also tried to see around corners, so to speak: to recognize change in its earliest stages and to identify new trends as they are forming, rather than to restate conservative bromides mechanically, even as events are making them obsolete.
We have always taken for granted that you can’t write about politics and society without writing about culture and ideas, for people shape their world and their actions according to their beliefs and thoughts. Hence our stories about everything from Virginia Woolf to Paris Hilton, from mating and marriage to the work ethic, from Horatio Alger to Critical Legal Studies. And because our own American culture, even beyond the Western tradition on which it rests, has been an extraordinary generator of freedom and prosperity, we’ve written often about the ideas that threaten to undermine the great gift that the immense labor of our predecessors has given us.
Two numbers provide a good index of the success of what we’ve done. Thanks to the Internet, City Journal now has just under 1 million Web readers per quarter all over the Anglosphere—and that’s counting in the most conservative way possible. We take that as a pretty resounding vote of confidence in our (formerly) little quarterly. In addition, the 14th City Journal book has just appeared, Number 15 is imminent, and we’ve just signed the contracts for Numbers 16 through 18. These well-received collections of
our articles are proof positive of our contention that City Journal stories are the lasting, definitive word on their subject, and that they sometimes rise above journalism to become literature. We hope you think so too.