Appealing to Reason

Craig Aaron

When James Weinstein moved to Chicago in 1976, he set out to create a fiercely independent journal that would inform, educate and critically analyze an emerging popular movement on the American left. A historian by trade, Weinstein modeled his newspaper on the Appeal to Reason, a socialist weekly that boasted more than 750,000 subscribers at its peak around 1912 and featured the writing of Upton Sinclair, Mother Jones and Eugene Victor Debs.

Weinsteins newspaper did resemble the Appealin its Midwestern sensibilities and populist tone, in its orientation toward the labor movement and electoral politics, in its commitment to avoid sectarianism and foster open debate. And much like the Appealwhich challenged the robber barons of the Industrial Revolutionthis newspaper was being launched, as Weinstein would recall a few years later, at a time when Americans were beginning to lose faith, not just in a particular politician or administration, but in the existing system.

When the first issue of In These Times appeared on November 15, 1976just 40 cents for a 24-page tabloidthe staff saw itself at the vanguard of a new majority. As a new new left grew and prospered, they reasoned, so would the newspaper.

Oops. The left didnt grow or prosper. Instead of riding the wave to mass appeal, In These Times has struggled to keep its head above water. Yet against the oddsand the newspaper-cum-magazine has been published during some dark days for the American leftIn These Times has survived, even thrived, for 25 years. How did we make it this far?

Though relatively new to the staff, I feel qualified to answer that question, having spent the better part of the past year editing an essay collectionAppeal to Reason: The First 25 Years of In These Times (forthcoming from Seven Stories Press)to mark the magazines silver anniversary. I combed through the archives, reading thousands of articles from each of the more than 900 issues weve published over the years. While searching for the best articles to excerpt in the book, I began to understand whywhen so many other publications have come and goneIn These Times has persevered.

In These Times has never wavered from its essential mission, as Weinstein succinctly put it in the very first editorial, to speak to corporate capitalism as the great issue of our time. It may no longer be hailed as the independent socialist newspaper on the masthead, but In These Times has maintained a remarkably consistent worldview and never relinquished its vision of nurturing a viable progressive movement with broad, popular appeal.

This dedication to a pluralistic, pragmatic left has been exemplified in the diversity of our contributors (and readers): socialists and Democrats, liberals and anarchists, journalists and academics, greens and union members, even the occasional conservative or Silicon Valley tycoon. In These Times has always committed its limited resources to honest (not objective) journalism, upholding the traditions of its muckraking predecessors, challenging the conventional wisdom, and refusing to follow the agenda of political hacks or PR flacks.

While the magazine has given numerous young writers their first opportunitiesand many veteran journalists a chance to write about events and ideas that matter free from ideological constraintsIn These Times often has been defined by the trio of David Moberg, Salim Muwakkil and Joel Bleifuss. Their writing has set the high standards for what an In These Times story should be: clear, concise, provocative, exhaustively reported.

These are the qualities youll find in every issue, whether the article is written by old friendsfrom Pat Aufderheide to G. Pascal Zacharyor newer voices like David Graeber and Naomi Klein. Of course, all of our writers have been aided by a succession of talented, hardworking editors, a creative, resourceful art staff (especially Jim Rinnert, who has been here for more than two decades), and the truly underappreciated business department.

But most importantly, these 25 years would have been impossible without the support of our readers, donors and sustainers. Your loyalty and generosity allow In These Times to continue its increasingly important work. Heres to all of you. Happy anniversary.

Craig Aaron is senior program director of the national media reform group Free Press and a former managing editor of In These Times.
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