The fate of The Weekly Standard, the conservative magazine that has staked out a position as a publication on the right still critical of President Donald Trump, is uncertain, Editor-in-Chief Stephen Hayes told staff in a series of phone calls Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The magazine’s precarious position comes after its leadership spent months searching for a buyer, the people told CNN.
The people explained that The Weekly Standard’s leadership had butted heads with MediaDC, the current publisher of the magazine, and that the two parties had agreed to allow Hayes to search for a new owner.
However, MediaDC recently informed The Weekly Standard’s leadership that the company was no longer interested in a sale, the people said.
Instead, Ryan McKibben, the chairman of MediaDC, asked to meet with Hayes in a meeting tentatively scheduled for late next week, the people said. McKibben, they said, also requested the entire staff of The Weekly Standard be made available following the meeting.
That request, coupled with MediaDC’s Monday announcement that its other conservative news organization, The Washington Examiner, would be expanding its magazine into a weekly publication, has left The Weekly Standard’s leadership worrying about the future of the magazine.
One of the people familiar with the matter told CNN that the Washington Examiner is expanding at the expense of The Weekly Standard.
The person’s view was that “they’re expanding the pro-Trump magazine that does what the owners want, while threatening closing of an independent magazine that has its own history and identity.”
Employees at the magazine are bracing for the worst, multiple people familiar with the matter told CNN.
Alex Rosenwald, a spokesperson for MediaDC, told CNN in a phone call on Tuesday morning that he was not aware of The Weekly Standard’s situation. Rosenwald said he was focused only on the marketing for the just-announced Washington Examiner Magazine. Rosenwald did not respond to an email or phone call on Tuesday afternoon requesting comment after CNN had learned of Hayes’ phone calls to staffers.
However, after this story was originally published, a spokesperson for Clarity Media Group, Inc., the parent company of MediaDC, released a statement to CNN.
“It is no secret that news organizations across the U.S. are dealing with an evolving business landscape,” the statement said. “The Weekly Standard is dealing with these same issues. Clarity Media has been exploring a number of possibilities regarding the future of The Weekly Standard. At this time, Clarity does not have any news to share about its evaluation process.”
Hayes did not respond to emails on Monday and Tuesday requesting comment.
The Weekly Standard was founded in 1995 by Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes. During the presidency of George W. Bush it was widely considered to be aligned with the administration and larger forces of neoconservatism.
Under Hayes’ leadership, The Weekly Standard has remained steadfast in its criticism of Trump. Supporters of Trump have lashed out at The Weekly Standard and its influence in Republican circles has dwindled.
But while The Weekly Standard’s influence in Republican politics has declined, its web traffic has increased, people familiar with the data said.
The magazine has also earned praise for some of the recent work it has done. In November, for instance the magazine published audio of Republican Congressman Steve King telling attendees at a campaign event in Iowa that “there’s plenty of dirt” coming from Mexico, apparently referring to Mexicans themselves.
– CNN’s Brian Stelter contributed reporting.