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Posted by on Jan 21, 2014 in Media | 4 comments

Ezra Klein is out at the Washington Post


Ezra Klein, the longtime power-blogger who became The Washington Post highly visible — and respected — blogger and columnist, is now out at The Washington Post. He basically made The Washington Post an offer they could refuse and so he’s parting company with them to start his own media venture with money from another source.

It’s a big loss to The Post, a loss of a “safe” media outlet and revenue source for Klein, but the beginning of an exciting chapter as he now returns to being identified with the “new” media. When I started blogging in 2003, Klein was already a talent whose star shone brightly. And at the Post (to use a trite phrase) he was clearly their “golden boy”:

For nearly five years, the Post has steered a bounty of financial resources to its star economics columnist and blogger. It has allowed him to have a contributor deal with MSNBC, a column with Bloomberg View, and to write long-form for The New Yorker. It has provided him with eight staffers to keep Wonkblog, his popular policy vertical, flowing with up-to-the-minute charts and analysis. The PR department has promoted him in profile upon profile.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The fact is, just as he was in his early blogging, Klein excelled at what he did while at the Post. And he was impressive on MSNBC as well. But now?

But when Klein proposed the creation of an independent, explanatory journalism website — with more than three dozen staffers and a multiyear budget north of $10 million — the Post said enough is enough. Indeed, Jeff Bezos, the Post’s new owner, and Katharine Weymouth, its publisher, never even offered an alternative figure, sources familiar with the negotiations said.

Now, Klein is set to take his talents elsewhere. The Washington Post’s Wonkblog account tweeted the announcement Tuesday that he is leaving: “It’s official: Ezra is leaving the Post. Hoping for the best for him.”

As early as this week, Klein is expected to announce a new venture — described in a memo to Post staffers as a new “news organization” — that will look to staff more than 30 people on the editorial side alone. Meanwhile, the Post, which for four years has benefited immensely from housing the Ezra Klein brand — Wonkblog averages more than four million page-views a month — will lose its star columnist and its claim to some of the most widely read policy analysis on the Internet.

The split, which has become a point of tension in the newsroom and the talk of the town in Washington, underscores a larger tension in the era of personal-brand journalism. Big media institutions go to great lengths to feed the egos (and pockets) of their growing stars, cultivating their image and reaping the rewards of high traffic. But when that brand becomes too expensive, or so big it threatens to outshine the institution itself, the institution is forced to let it go.

The Politico piece notes that Klein isn’t the first 21st century, young journalist who has outgrown his original venue and moved on. Blogging, newspapers, news magazines, online journalism have all radically changed in the past 10 years. Bezos intends to adapt The Washington Post to the 21st century. He may do that, but it’ll be without the multi-talented Klein.

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