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For most college students wanting to leave their mark on the world, having helped Mark Zuckerberg launch Facebook would be more than enough. But Chris Hughes ’06, who helped to lead the social network’s growth in its early years, now has his sights set on upending a slightly less sexy medium — magazines.
Nine years and a day after he and Zuckerberg took Facebook live from their Kirkland House dorm room, Hughes returned to campus on Tuesday to discuss his latest underdog venture: his plan to reinvigorate the ailing but venerable magazine The New Republic, which he purchased last spring.
“I believe in the power of great writing to shape how we see the world,” Hughes said in a conversation sponsored by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy. “That sounds incredibly idealistic, and it is lofty, but I’m not ashamed of it.”
Hughes’ idealism has served him well thus far, as he has ventured into new-media startups, national politics, and now traditional publishing.
“Chris Hughes did something counterintuitive all the way along the line,” said the conversation’s moderator, Alex S. Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center and a lecturer in public policy at HKS.
Unlike many tech founders who found overnight success (including Zuckerberg and their fellow roommate, Dustin Moskovitz), Hughes stayed in Cambridge to finish his degree. In 2007, he left his job as Facebook spokesman at the height of the company’s hype to work on social media initiatives for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, then a long shot. When Hughes assumed majority ownership of The New Republic last March, taking over as publisher and editor in chief, he seemed to be signaling a desire to make his mark in yet another field.
“He has taken this venerable institution [The New Republic], and this venerable profession, journalism, and is looking at them informed by his deep knowledge of digital technology and the digital world,” Jones said. read more