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National Journal is an American weekly magazine that reports on politics and policy. It is part of National Journal Group, a division of David Bradley‘s Atlantic Media Company.

National Journal was founded in 1969 by 30-year-old attorney Anthony Carder Stout and investment banker Randy Smith, with the goal of creating a magazine that would cover the executive branch in much the same way that Congressional Quarterly covered Congress. That narrow focus proved untenable for a long-term venture, though, and in 1975, after Stout hired Newsweek’s John Fox Sullivan to become the magazine’s publisher, National Journal expanded its purview to include all aspects of the federal government.

Between 1986 and 1997, National Journal was owned by the Times Mirror company; in 1997, Bradley acquired it. (He acquired The Atlantic magazine, forming the Atlantic Media Group, in 1999.) When Bradley bought it, National Journal had a circulation of 6,500. And though it hoped to expand its audience by way of “more user-friendly content” — shorter, less jargon-filled stories — it was largely read by an inside-the-Beltway audience of Congressional members and staffers, White House and agency workers, lobbyists, lawyers, and members of the media.

In 2006, National Journal announced a partnership with the public television show “Washington Week,” which resulted not only in National Journal reporters making appearances on the Gwen Ifill-anchored show, but also in editorial collaborations and shared promotion, marketing, and fundraising efforts.

In October of 2010, National Journal launched a major overhaul of its print product and (free) website, accompanied by an estimated $2-$3 million ad campaign. The goal was, at it had been in 1997, to expand National Journal’s audience both inside and outside the Beltway and to raise its circulation (which was 11,381 as of the revamp). The overhaul was widely seen as an attempt to challenge Politico.

As part of the revamp, National Journal offered buyouts to its entire staff — some 200 workers — and went on a hiring spree for big-name journalists, including Matt Cooper, Major Garrett, Marc Ambinder, David Beard, and Ron Fournier (now the magazine’s editor-in-chief). Fournier’s goal for National Journal, he said just after its re-launch in October of 2010, is to “out-think everybody,” “out-work everybody,” and “out-clever everybody.”

National Journal redesigned its magazine again in 2014 to focus on longform journalism.

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Primary author: Megan Garber. Main text last updated: July 3, 2014.
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