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JewishJournal.com

June 7, 2012

When GOOD ‘gave a damn’ about good journalism

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/when_good_gave_a_damn_about_good_journalism_20120607/

The “staff massacre” at GOOD and the magazine’s change of direction from polished publication to “something more like Reddit” seemed to catch everyone by surprise.

It wasn’t long ago that GOOD was a darling of the magazine and charitable worlds. It was a magazine that produced strong editorial content with a focus on subjects that would resonate with readers and prompt them to care about the world around them.

GOOD had only been around since 2006, but quickly risen to prominence in an industry in which most players struggle to make a profit and newcomers rarely fare well. Now things are being torn down in and effort by the GOOD company to revamp its “fundamental strategy” and rebuild in a way that CEO Ben Goldhirsh discusses in this “hey guys” email sent companywide.

Five years ago, just before he made the Heeb 100, I spoke with Goldhirsh about being a 27-year-old millionaire and using that money to do something, well, good.

Here’s an excerpt from that profile:

Goldhirsh sees the GOOD brand, which also includes Reason Pictures, a film company he started in 2004, as much more than a media organization. It’s “a meta-company,” he said, “a lifestyle brand” that appeals to the “reason-based sensibilities” of people like him. People who know privilege and yet want to change the world in a big way.

“It is a revolution of self-interest,” said publisher Max Schorr, a prep school friend of Goldhirsh’s who skipped law school to help start the magazine. “In the past, if you pursued your self-interest, it was considered selfish. For us, the process of pursuing our self-interest leads to more than ourselves. If we just pursued ourselves all the time, it would lead to a lousy life.”

The timing for GOOD was not a month too soon. Not long before the first issue was published in September 2006, Al Gore (whose son, Albert Gore III, happens to be associate publisher) and “An Inconvenient Truth” made combating climate change fashionable; going green and being eco-friendly got downright trendy. Suddenly, it was cool to care not just about the environment but societal issues and the whole world around you.

“If doing good used to be a pejorative and kind of lame, or somehow was characterized that way by culture, which I don’t know how the hell that happened, then certainly being ignorant and living an irrelevant life is now that way,” Goldhirsh said. “An engaged life is where it is at, which is thrilling to me.”

Personally, Goldhirsh is “cause agnostic,” so he didn’t want to encourage some passions and stifle others; he simply wanted to celebrate a social awareness, which is why the magazine’s debut cover featured in white block lettering “_____ LIKE YOU GIVE A DAMN.”

“If this doesn’t become the dominant sensibility,” Goldhirsh said, “we are f—-ed.”

Read the rest here. Suffice to say, it seems like GOOD’s mission—not just its form—has changed.

As for the dearly departed GOOD staffers, they’ve vowed to start a new magazine called Tomorrow.

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