Chris Hughes, Out Gay Facebook Co-Founder and Former Obama Staffer, Buys The New Republic

Posted by Chris Geidner
March 9, 2012 5:01 AM |

Chris Hughes, the out gay 28-year-old co-founder of Facebook who left the company to help create then Sen. Barack Obama's social media effort in his 2008 presidential campaign, has purchased a majority share of and has become the publisher and editor-in-chief of The New Republic, The New York Times reported and Hughes confirmed in a letter at The New Republic.

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In his letter, he writes in part:

It seems that today too many media institutions chase superficial metrics of online virality at the expense of investing in rigorous reporting and analysis of the most important stories of our time. When few people are investing in media institutions with such bold aims as "enlightenment to the problems of the nation," I believe we must.

At the same time, his letter references "social networks, blogs, and daily aggregators" but adds, "In the next era of The New Republic, we will aggressively adapt to the newest information technologies without sacrificing our commitment to serious journalism."

Hughes is engaged to Sean Eldridge, a senior advisor at Freedom to Marry who previously served as the organization's political director. The couple were profiled in the May 2011 issue of The Advocate, as part of its 40 Under 40 list.

HughesEldridgeCover.jpgIn the article, Ari Karpel wrote of Hughes:

Hughes's role at Facebook wasn't about writing code. A French literature major, he's the guy who came up with popular features that helped make the site user-friendly. One of those features allowed political candidates to construct a version of a profile page, long before celebrities and companies had the fan pages that are so popular today. This caught the eye of the team supporting the freshman senator from Illinois, who was not yet a presidential candidate. Chris worked with them on honing the functionality to suit their needs. Eventually they came back to him, asking if he would lead the campaign's online organizing. How could he say no? "He's an incredible candidate, and it was a unique time in history," says the Hickory, N.C., native, who moved to Illinois for the job.

Of the couple, the article (from May 2011, remember) quoted Hughes talking about their plans -- in light of the money he made from Facebook:

"Sean and I are in a really unique position," Hughes says. "We're young and we both want to have a serious impact on the world." They're modeling their giving on the work of Tim Gill and Jon Stryker, who, through their organizations -- the Gill Foundation and Arcus Foundation, respectively -- have fueled progressive causes with their philanthropy. Hughes and Eldridge aren't limiting themselves to marriage equality or gay issues. There's education, cultivating the humanities, international development, and, Hughes says, "creating a more economically just world. There's just so much stuff we care about that I hope we can make change on as many of them as possible. I know it might sound crazy, but we both feel the clock ticking. There's only so much time, and there's so much stuff to do."

Fast forward to today, from The New York Times:

Asked how he would turn a profit for the money-losing magazine, Mr. Hughes said, "Profit per se is not my motive. The reason I'm getting involved here is that I believe in the type of vigorous contextual journalism that we — we in general as a society — need."

He added that he hoped the magazine could be profitable. "But I'm investing and taking control of The New Republic because of my belief in its mission, not to make it the next Facebook," he said.

From 1991 to 1996, out gay writer Andrew Sullivan, now at The Daily Beast, served as editor-in-chief of the traditionally liberal magazine (that, at times, takes positions outside of liberal orthodoxy). 

Before taking on the editorship, it was Sullivan's Aug. 28, 1989, cover story in the magazine -- "Here Comes the Groom" – in which he began making his case for marriage. The article's subhead was "A (Conservative) Case for Gay Marriage."

Now, with an advocate for marriage equality at his side, Hughes has announced the start of his tenure at the head of the magazine.

[Photo, below right: Hughes, left, and Eldridge (Photo from The Advocate.)]


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