Capital loss

By ADAM REILLY  |  November 5, 2007

By the end of the Atlantic’s Boston tenure, things had changed: the city was becoming a branch town in almost everything but academia — and there, too, our supremacy was on the wane. Still, with cultural and financial gravity concentrated in New York and political power concentrated in Washington, Boston had cultivated something else: a kind of shared civic arrogance, rooted in memories of past glory, that drove Bostonians to sit in intellectual judgment on the great events of the day — events which, by and large, were no longer happening here.

Such a sensibility carries its risks, certainly. But it also offers an ideal climate for the sort of reporting Kaplan described — a climate that would have been awfully hard to recreate in the nation’s capital, even under the best of circumstances.

Bradley has only owned the Atlantic for about five percent of its existence. He’s a smart, exceedingly successful guy, and he presumably has fine business reasons for remaking the historically unprofitable magazine as he has. These changes may even help the Atlantic survive for another 150 years. Even if it does, though, it seems clear that its days of engaged-but-detached highbrow eclecticism are over. What’s less clear, for now, is whether this distinctly Bostonian attitude was a mere aesthetic trapping or, instead, the engine that enabled the magazine’s greatest editorial successes.

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