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“Not a natural death”: the Never-Trump bastion Weekly Standard may be shut down

“This is not about dwindling subscribers. This is about strip-mining TWS for its assets.”

Moderator Joy Reid and William Kristol at Politicon on July 29, 2017, in Pasadena, California.

The future of the conservative magazine the Weekly Standard is at risk as the magazine’s ownership, MediaDC, is reportedly refocusing its attention on its other main publication, the Washington Examiner. And the Daily Caller is reporting that the magazine could be shut down as soon as December 14, though the company that owns MediaDC (and thus TWS) told CNN that it is continuing to explore possibilities and “does not have any news to share” at this point.

As one source told me, “This is not about dwindling subscribers. This is about strip-mining TWS for its assets” — namely, the magazine’s subscriber lists.

At the heart of the troubles is the Weekly Standard’s turn against Trumpism, which has proven a losing bet in a conservative movement that has increasingly embraced the president. MediaDC reportedly wants to jettison the anti-Trump brand of the Weekly Standard but use its subscribers to bolster the more pro-Trump — or at least Trump-agnostic — Examiner.

Founded in 1995 by Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes, the Weekly Standard is best known as a publication aimed at “neoconservatives,” a branch of conservatism stemming from, in part, former liberals who were disappointed with the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and backed a hawkish foreign policy that centers on interventionism (“Having defeated and then occupied Iraq, democratizing the country should not be too tall an order for the world’s sole superpower” wrote Kristol in 2003).

But more recently, the Standard — and, in particular, Kristol himself — have proven consistent, strident critics of President Donald Trump, and many blame the magazine’s problems on its “Never Trump” stance — it wouldn’t be the first time a conservative media company made cuts to align its brand closer to the president.

I reached out to Kristol for comment, but he did not respond in time for publication. But staffers inside the publication say that financial pressures aren’t the main reason the 23-year-old magazine is shutting down. Rather, one source told me that the magazine’s owners “have worked to sabotage TWS every step of the way” and now want to harvest the magazine’s subscriber base to help support the Washington Examiner, which is now expanding into a nationally distributed magazine.

Publication infighting — largely because of diverging attitudes toward President Trump — has done little to soothe tensions. “This isn’t a natural death,” another source told me.

According to CNN’s Oliver Darcy, the Weekly Standard’s leadership, including current editor-in-chief Stephen Hayes, have been searching for a buyer after “butting heads” with MediaDC. But that search ended recently — though a source told me that the Standard’s leadership did find a buyer and suggested a management buyout, but was rebuffed.

However, MediaDC recently informed The Weekly Standard’s ownership that the company was no longer interested in a sale, the people said.

Instead, Ryan McKibben, the chairman of MediaDC, asked to meet with Hayes in a meeting tentatively scheduled for late next week, the people said. McKibben, they said, also requested the entire staff of The Weekly Standard be made available following the meeting.

The Weekly Standard was perhaps the publication most associated with conservatives who rejected Trumpism. Now, two years into the Trump administration, the publication will likely cease to exist.