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Jan 23 2014

Ezra Klein Goes Independent

In a very interesting development both for the mainstream media and for the world of blogging and independent journalism, Ezra Klein is leaving the Washington Post to create his own online news organization that apparently will focus on “explanatory journalism” — that is, explaining policy details rather than focusing on partisan disagreements.

The Washington Post announced Tuesday that Ezra Klein, creator of “Wonkblog,” is leaving the paper to start his own news organization, ending a five-year run at the paper.

“When Ezra joined us in 2009, he was a wunderkind blogger with brash confidence and a burning desire to write a column in the print newspaper,” the Post stated in a memo sent to employees. “As he leaves us, Ezra is still a brash wunderkind, but now his burning desire has a grander scope.”

The Post said Director of Platforms Melissa Bell and “Wonkblog” contributor Dylan Matthews will also be leaving the Post to work on Mr. Klein’s new venture.

Mr. Klein’s departure comes after he proposed build an explanatory journalism site as a separate enterprise affiliated with the Post, the New York Times reported earlier this month. Mr. Klein was looking for an “eight-figure” investment, but Post owner Jeff Bezos and publisher Katharine Weymouth reportedly declined.

This is a fascinating trend, I think. Just like Nate Silver went from being a blogger to becoming a media star working for one of the stalwarts of old media and then left in search of more independence, Klein is doing the same thing. It’s all the more interesting because his wife, Annie Lowrey, who used to work with me at the American Independent News Network, is now with the New York Times. Both members of this power couple are very good at getting inside of a policy and figuring out what it really means and how it will really work in the real world.

I really look forward to seeing what he ends up building here. Investigative journalism is important, but explanatory journalism is too and it’s rarely done well. Ezra can do it very, very well and he avoids partisan spin while doing it. That’s a very good thing for all involved.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    Raging Bee

    Left unanswered is an important question: what specific freedom was denied him at the Post? What, specifically, did he want to cover but was unable to?

  2. 2
    Crimson Clupeidae

    …he avoids partisan spin…

    So, he’s a flaming liberal, is he?

    No, dammit, you’re not getting a snark tag outta me!!

  3. 3
    doublereed

    Paul Krugman had a column that basically said that Washington Post is making a big mistake.

  4. 4
    eric

    @1 – Doesn’t sound like artistic license was the issue. Sounds like they just wouldn’t fund his project to the amount he wanted.

    The nerd in me wants him to work “bottle” into the title of his new news service.

  5. 5
    oranje

    I’m greatly looking forward to the results here. Add to the list with the BBC, Financial Times, and Globe and Mail for my news reading.

  6. 6
    Chiroptera

    …that is, explaining policy details rather than focusing on partisan disagreements.

    I long ago let my subscriptions to mainstream media lapse because of this very problem. Every election cycle, the media always seemed too focused on the “horse race,” that is, on how their statements would affect their standing among various demographic groups.

    I was increasingly frustrated at the lack of explanation about how their specific policy proposals (such as they are) would actually work out as real life polcies and their likelihood of correcting the intended problems and the likelihood of creating new problems (that is, get actual data from real experts in the relevant fields).

    In other words, I don’t want to know how proposals will affect polls in the absence of real information; i wanted information that I could use to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of the proposals.

    The main problem with much of the mainstream media is that by treating the masses as some undirected force of nature, they end up maintaining an electorate consisting mostly of low-information voters.

  7. 7
    Akira MacKenzie

    The problem is, “…explaining policy details rather than focusing on partisan disagreements…” is that most of the details will get rejected or ignored for partisan reasons.

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