A Tarnished 'Republic'

'Attitude' That Led to a Fall

Cowering like a televangelist caught in the wrong motel room and now begging forgiveness, that was the ungenerous image that sprang to mind as I read the June 1 issue of the New Republic.

"The New Republic has always been a stringent magazine," the editors write, "stringent about intellectual honesty and stringent about telling the truth. We have not hesitated to hold others to account when they have, in our judgment, transgressed against those norms. But we know that this stringency—which is such an integral part of this institution’s eighty-four-year tradition—cannot be credible unless we are willing to apply it to ourselves when appropriate.

"It is appropriate now."

The transgression at issue has been widely reported. Since 1995, the New Republic has published forty-one articles by Stephen Glass, a young journalist, say the editors, "with a flair for keen observation and colorful anecdotes." Also, it turned out, with a weakness for making up some of those anecdotes and, in the flagrant case that brought that weakness to light, for making up an entire story, complete with phony characters, an imaginary corporation, and a totally nonexistent event.

The editors have duly fired the offending staff member, retracted his known false report, begun investigating his other stories, and publicly apologized....

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About the Author

Peter Steinfels, co-founder of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture and a former editor of Commonweal, is the author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.