This isn’t my first In These Times editorial, but it is my first as publisher. After 36 years, editor & publisher Joel Bleifuss is moving on from the magazine. For 23 of those years, Joel was at the top of the masthead, and his insights and observations were often the first thing you read when you opened an issue. But if Joel was a constant, In These Times was constantly changing — from newsprint broadsheet to glossy magazine, from biweekly to monthly, from teetering on the brink of extinction to becoming the healthy publication it is today. Now, Joel is the change, as he heads out for the next adventure.
Joel won’t be going too far, though. He’ll soon be working on a new project we hope to partner with, reporting from rural communities. And he may pop in from time to time to weigh in with his signature view.
As for me, when I first came to In These Times in 2016, after a decade in electoral politics, I was looking for a change. I wanted to break away from the short-term mentality of campaigns and focus on the long game of change. I thought things would move slower here. I was wrong.
A few weeks after I arrived, Bernie Sanders came within one-third of one percent of winning the Iowa caucus, and like that we were caught in a whirlwind that hasn’t let up yet. We felt the shock of Trump’s victory, helped usher in “The Resistance” and shone a spotlight on both the rise of white nationalism and the resilience of the movement for Black lives. We’re still caught in a global pandemic that’s led to a crisis of work and unlocked a new wave of labor organizing.
It was Plato who said, “all things pass and nothing stays” (though he was paraphrasing someone else). Comparing time to the flow of a river, he observed that you could never step twice in the same water. Recently, history has flowed like a raging river, and no two days seem the same.
Magazines, at their best, can be agents of change. In 1967, on his way through an airport to catch a flight to Jamaica for vacation, Martin Luther King Jr. came across a copy of Ramparts magazine. In it was a photo essay, “The Children of Vietnam,” that showed the devastating human toll of the U.S. bombing campaign. The story led King to publicly speak out against the war for the first time.
Stumbling across the right magazine, at the right time, can change your life. It can open you up to new ideas, new ways of thinking, new communities. And by changing people, we can slowly start to alter the flow of history. That’s why I came to In These Times.
But even this new role is temporary. In These Times board president Rick Perlstein will be leading a search to find the next person to sit atop the masthead — the next changing of the guard. One thing that won’t be changing is our commitment to the core beliefs that have animated In These Times from the beginning: a faith in democracy, coupled with an understanding that social movements drive progress more than any politician. In the coming months, I’m looking forward to sharing some of our best and most important reporting with readers.
There are of course days when it seems like U.S. politics is constantly stepping into the same water, again and again, with the same recurring cast of villains and all too familiar heartbreak. It can be tempting in those moments to give up on the hope of change. Don’t be fooled — the water hasn’t stopped moving.