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National Review tries a transatlantic tack

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NEW officers will soon be piped aboard National Review, the flagship magazine of conservative journalism in America. For the first time in the publication's 33-year history, the editor will be someone other than William F. Buckley Jr., the journal's founder. The new editor, John O'Sullivan, will assume his post Aug. 1. Mr. Buckley will take the title editor in chief.

The other new name on the magazine's masthead will be Wick Allison, who takes over as publisher in January. Mr. Allison, currently the publisher of Art & Antiques, will succeed William A. Rusher, who is retiring after 31 years of directing National Review's business affairs.

``John O'Sullivan and Wick Allison will bring a high degree of professionalism to their jobs,'' Mr. Rusher says. ``Both have far more experience than Bill Buckley or I had as young men in the '50s who knew next to nothing about journalism.''

Moving into uncertain waters

The new team will inherit a vessel that is seaworthy but is moving tentatively into uncertain waters. National Review is facing two transitions, both of which will affect its character and direction.

One is the generational change, as the last members of the magazine's early leaders - Buckley, Rusher, and Buckley's sister Priscilla - either leave or assume less central roles. Priscilla Buckley, for many years the managing editor and, according to one observer, ``the glue that held the whole thing together,'' stepped down three years ago to become one of five senior editors. And while sources at National Review emphasize that her brother - a towering figure in American conservatism - is not retiring, his willingness to relinquish the editor's nameplate must be regarded as a watershed development.

The other change ahead is a shift in the political breezes. After eight years of sailing with the generally congenial tradewinds of the Reagan era, National Review will have to contend with a less predictable climate, whoever is elected president in November.

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