The Atlantic is an American magazine and multi-platform publisher. It was founded in 1857 in Boston, Massachusetts, as The Atlantic Monthly, a literary and cultural commentary magazine that published leading writers' commentary on the abolition of slavery, about education, and on the other major political issues of that time. Its founders included Francis H. Underwood and prominent writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Greenleaf Whittier. James Russell Lowell was its first editor. It is known for publishing literary pieces by leading writers.
After experiencing financial hardship and undergoing several ownership changes in the late 20th century, the magazine was purchased by businessman David G. Bradley, who refashioned it as a general editorial magazine primarily aimed at a target audience of serious national readers and "thought leaders". In 2010, The Atlantic posted its first profit in a decade. In 2016, the periodical was named Magazine of the Year by the American Society of Magazine Editors. In July 2017, Bradley sold a majority interest in the publication to Laurene Powell Jobs's Emerson Collective.
Its website, TheAtlantic.com, provides daily coverage and analysis of breaking news, politics and international affairs, education, technology, health, science, and culture. The Executive Editor of the website is Adrienne LaFrance and the Editor-in-Chief is Jeffrey Goldberg.
In the autumn of 1857, Boston publisher Moses Dresser Phillips created The Atlantic Monthly. This plan was launched in a dinner party, as described in a letter by Phillips:
At that dinner he announced his idea for a magazine:
The Atlantic's first issue was published in November 1857, and quickly gained fame as one of the finest magazines in the English-speaking world.
A leading literary magazine, The Atlantic has published many significant works and authors. It was the first to publish pieces by the abolitionists Julia Ward Howe ("Battle Hymn of the Republic" on February 1, 1862), and William Parker, whose slave narrative, "The Freedman's Story" was published in February and March 1866. It also published Charles W. Eliot's "The New Education", a call for practical reform, that led to his appointment to presidency of Harvard University in 1869; works by Charles Chesnutt before he collected them in The Conjure Woman (1899); and poetry and short stories, helping launch many national literary careers. For example, Emily Dickinson, after reading an article in The Atlantic by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, asked him to become her mentor. In 2005, the magazine won a National Magazine Award for fiction.
The magazine published many of the works of Mark Twain, including one that was lost until 2001. Editors have recognized major cultural changes and movements. For example, of the emerging writers of the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway had his short story "Fifty Grand" published in the July 1927 edition. Harkening back to its abolitionist roots, in its August 1963 edition, at the height of the civil rights movement, the magazine published Martin Luther King Jr.'s defense of civil disobedience, "Letter from Birmingham Jail".
The magazine has published speculative articles that inspired the development of new technologies. The classic example is Vannevar Bush's essay "As We May Think" (July 1945), which inspired Douglas Engelbart and later Ted Nelson to develop the modern workstation and hypertext technology.
The Atlantic Monthly founded the Atlantic Monthly Press in 1917; for many years, it was operated in partnership with Little, Brown and Company. Its published books included Drums Along the Mohawk (1936) and Blue Highways (1982). The press was sold in 1986; today it is an imprint of Grove Atlantic.
In addition to publishing notable fiction and poetry, The Atlantic has emerged in the 21st century as an influential platform for longform storytelling and newsmaker interviews. Influential cover stories have included Anne Marie Slaughter's "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" (2012) and Ta-Nehisi Coates's "Case for Reparations" (2014). In 2015, Jeffrey Goldberg's "Obama Doctrine" was widely discussed by American media and prompted response by many world leaders.
As of 2017, writers and frequent contributors to the print magazine include James Fallows, Jeffrey Goldberg, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Molly Ball, Caitlin Flanagan, James Hamblin, Julia Ioffe, Jonathan Rauch, McKay Coppins, Rosie Gray, Gillian White, Adrienne LaFrance, Vann R. Newkirk II, Derek Thompson, David Frum, Peter Beinart, and James Parker.
Until recent decades, The Atlantic was known as a distinctively New England literary magazine (as opposed to Harper's and later The New Yorker, both published in New York City). It achieved a national reputation and was important to the careers of many American writers and poets. By its third year, it was published by the noted Boston publishing house Ticknor and Fields (later to become part of Houghton Mifflin), based in the city known for literary culture. The magazine was purchased in 1908 by its then editor, Ellery Sedgwick, but remained in Boston.
In 1980, the magazine was acquired by Mortimer Zuckerman, property magnate and founder of Boston Properties, who became its chairman. On September 27, 1999, Zuckerman transferred ownership of the magazine to David G. Bradley, owner of the National Journal Group, which focused on news of Washington, D.C., and government. Bradley had promised that the magazine would stay in Boston for the foreseeable future, as it did for the next five and a half years.
In April 2005, however, the publishers announced that the editorial offices would be moved from their longtime home at 77 North Washington Street in Boston to join the company's advertising and circulation divisions in Washington, D.C. Later in August, Bradley told The New York Observer that the move was not made to save money—near-term savings would be $200,000–$300,000, a relatively small amount that would be swallowed by severance-related spending—but instead would serve to create a hub in Washington where the top minds from all of Bradley's publications could collaborate under the Atlantic Media Company umbrella. Few of the Boston staff agreed to move, and Bradley embarked on an open search for a new editorial staff.
In 2006, Bradley hired James Bennet as editor-in-chief; he had been the Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times. He also hired writers, including Jeffrey Goldberg and Andrew Sullivan. Jay Lauf joined the organization as publisher and vice-president in 2008; as of 2017, he was publisher and president of Quartz.
Bennet and Bob Cohn became co-presidents of The Atlantic in early 2014, and Cohn became the publication's sole president in March 2016 when Bennet was tapped to lead The New York Times editorial page. Jeffrey Goldberg was named editor in chief in October 2016.
On July 28, 2017, The Atlantic announced that billionaire investor and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs (the widow of former Apple Inc. chairman and CEO Steve Jobs) had acquired majority ownership through her Emerson Collective organization, with a staff member of Emerson Collective, Peter Lattman, being immediately named as The Atlantic's vice chairman. David G. Bradley and Atlantic Media retained a minority share position in this sale.
Throughout its history, The Atlantic has been reluctant to endorse political candidates in elections. In 1860, three years into publication, The Atlantic's then-editor James Russell Lowell endorsed Republican Abraham Lincoln for his first run for president and also endorsed the abolition of slavery.
In 2016, the editorial board endorsed a presidential candidate, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, for the third time since the magazine's founding, in a rebuke of Republican Donald Trump's candidacy. Since the election, the magazine has become a strong critic of President Trump. The March 2019 cover article by editor Yoni Appelbaum formally called for the impeachment of Donald Trump: "It's time for Congress to judge the president's fitness to serve." In September 2020, it published a story, citing several anonymous sources, reporting that Trump referred to dead American soldiers as "losers." Trump called it a "fake story" and suggested the magazine would soon be out of business.
Format, publication frequency, and name
The magazine, subscribed to by over 500,000 readers, publishes ten times a year. It was a monthly magazine for 144 years until 2001 when it published eleven issues; it has published ten issues yearly since 2003. It dropped "Monthly" from the cover beginning with the January/February 2004 issue, and officially changed the name in 2007. The Atlantic features articles in the fields of politics, foreign affairs, business and the economy, culture and the arts, technology, and science.
On January 22, 2008, TheAtlantic.com dropped its subscriber wall and allowed users to freely browse its site, including all past archives. By 2011 The Atlantic's web properties included TheAtlanticWire.com, a news- and opinion-tracking site launched in 2009, and TheAtlanticCities.com, a stand-alone website started in 2011 that was devoted to global cities and trends. According to a Mashable profile in December 2011, "traffic to the three web properties recently surpassed 11 million uniques per month, up a staggering 2500% since The Atlantic brought down its paywall in early 2008."
In December 2011, a new Health Channel launched on TheAtlantic.com, incorporating coverage of food, as well as topics related to the mind, body, sex, family, and public health. Its launch was overseen by Nicholas Jackson, who had previously been overseeing the Life channel and initially joined TheAtlantic.com to cover technology. TheAtlantic.com has also expanded to visual storytelling, with the addition of the "In Focus" photo blog, curated by Alan Taylor. In 2011 it created its Video Channel. Initially created as an aggregator, The Atlantic's Video component, Atlantic Studios, has since evolved in an in-house production studio that creates custom video series and original documentaries.
In 2015, TheAtlantic.com launched a dedicated Science section and in January 2016 it redesigned and expanded its politics section in conjunction with the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
In September 2019, TheAtlantic.com introduced a digital subscription model, restricting unsubscribed readers' access to five free articles per month.
The Atlantic Wire, the sister site of The Atlantic’s online presence, TheAtlantic.com, was launched in 2009. It initially served to the purpose of aggregating news and opinions from online, print, radio, and television outlets. At its launch, it published op-eds from across the media spectrum and summarized significant positions in each debate. It later expanded to feature news and original reporting. Regular features included "What I Read," describing the media diets of people from entertainment, journalism, and politics; and "Trimming the Times," the feature editor's summary of the best content in The New York Times. The Atlantic Wire rebranded itself as The Wire in November 2013, and was folded back into The Atlantic the following year.
CityLab was launched in September 2011 as The Atlantic Cities. Its co-founders included Richard Florida, urban theorist and professor. The stand-alone site has been described as exploring and explaining "the most innovative ideas and pressing issues facing today's global cities and neighborhoods." In 2014, it was rebranded as CityLab.com. CityLab.com covers transportation, environment, equity, life, and design. Among its offerings are Navigator, "a guide to urban life;" and Solutions, which covers solutions to problems in a dozen topics.
In 2015, CityLab and Univision launched CityLab Latino, which features original journalism in Spanish as well as translated reporting from the English language edition of CityLab.com. The site was last updated in 2018.
In early December 2019, Atlantic Media sold CityLab to Bloomberg Media, which promptly laid off half the staff. The site was relaunched on June 18, 2020, with few major changes other than new branding and linking the site with other Bloomberg verticals and its data terminal.
The Aspen Ideas Festival
In 2005, The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute launched the Aspen Ideas Festival, a ten-day event in and around the city of Aspen, Colorado. The annual conference features 350 presenters, 200 sessions and 3,000 attendees. The event has been called a "political who's who" as it often features policymakers, journalists, lobbyists and think tank leaders.
In June 2006, the Chicago Tribune named The Atlantic one of the top ten English-language magazines, describing it as the "150-year-old granddaddy of periodicals" because "it keeps us smart and in the know" with cover stories on the then-forthcoming fight over Roe v. Wade. It also lauded regular features such as "Word Fugitives" and "Primary Sources" as "cultural barometers."
On January 14, 2013, The Atlantic's website published "sponsor content" promoting David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology. While the magazine had previously published advertising looking like articles, this one was widely criticized. The page comments were moderated by the marketing team, not by editorial staff, and comments critical of the church were being removed. Later that day, The Atlantic removed the piece from its website and issued an apology.
On November 1, 2020, The Atlantic retracted an article ("The Mad, Mad World of Niche Sports Among Ivy League–Obsessed Parents") after a Washington Post inquiry. An 800-word editors' note said, “We cannot attest to the trustworthiness and credibility of the author, and therefore we cannot attest to the veracity of the article.” The article's author, freelancer Ruth Shalit Barrett, left the staff of The New Republic in 1999 amid allegations of plagiarism.
List of editors
- James Russell Lowell, 1857–1861
- James T. Fields, 1861–1871
- William Dean Howells, 1871–1881
- Thomas Bailey Aldrich, 1881–1890
- Horace Elisha Scudder, 1890–1898
- Walter Hines Page, 1898–99
- Bliss Perry, 1899–1909
- Ellery Sedgwick, 1909–1938
- Edward A. Weeks, 1938–1966
- Robert Manning, 1966–1980
- William Whitworth, 1980–1999
- Michael Kelly, 1999–2003
- Cullen Murphy, 2003–2006 (interim editor, never named editor in chief)
- James Bennet, 2006–2016
- Jeffrey Goldberg, 2016–present
- Official website
- "A History of The Atlantic"
- The Atlantic archival writings by topic
- Online archive of The Atlantic (earliest issues up to December 1901)
- Hathi Trust. Atlantic Monthly digitized issues, 1857–
- An early history of The Atlantic from The Literary Digest (1897)
- Atlantic Monthly records, at the University of Maryland libraries