Washington Post announces Ezra Klein is leaving

Ezra Klein is leaving The Washington Post, the paper told staffers in a memo Tuesday. No details yet on who is backing Klein’s new venture.

Full memo:

We regret to announce that Ezra Klein, Melissa Bell and Dylan Matthews are leaving The Post for a new venture.

All three were instrumental in two of The Post’s most successful digital initiatives, Wonkblog and Know More. We plan to continue building those brands and expanding their reach, and we’ll have some exciting announcements related to them in the coming days.

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. As he leaves us, Ezra is still a brash wunderkind, but now his burning desire has a grander scope: He is looking to start his own news organization, an ambition that befits someone with uncommon gifts of perception and analysis. Ezra’s passion and drive will be missed, but we will take pride in watching him chart out his new venture.

Melissa has played a pivotal role in our digital strategy. As director of platforms, Melissa worked with the embedded developers to introduce WordPress as a secondary CMS, allowing for much of the development experimentation we’ve seen over the last year. She took over blog strategy and worked to hone the number of blogs and strengthen existing brands. She also managed to find time for some writing while here, driving our live coverage expansion, penning a Style column for more than a year, blogging for BlogPost and Style Blog and writing magazine stories. But her biggest strength is her personality, a combination of relentless determination and self-deprecating humor that helped her motivate young developers.

Dylan Matthews is a wunderkind in his own right. A blogger since middle school, Dylan had freelanced for Slate and worked at the American Prospect — before his 18th birthday. He started contributing to Wonkblog while still a student at Harvard and jumped in full-time in 2012. Last year he launched Know More, which was an instant hit. We will miss his humor and sharp instincts for what works on the Web.

Please join us in wishing Ezra, Melissa and Dylan the best and thanking them for their many contributions to The Post.

Greg Schneider
David Cho
Emilio Garcia-Ruiz

Klein reportedly sought an eight-figure investment for a new venture that would build on Wonkblog, the policy-and-more blog he built for the Post. Post publisher Katharine Weymouth and owner Jeff Bezos declined to supply that money, Ravi Somaiya reported earlier this month. Also in January, Charlie Warzel reported in BuzzFeed that signs pointed to Klein doing a deal with Vox Media.

His new venture joins a suddenly crowded market of startups founded or staffed by journalists with large personal brands:

• Nate Silver decided last year to leave The New York Times for ESPN, which plans to relaunch his FiveThirtyEight.com under its auspices soon.

• Glenn Greenwald left the Guardian last year to join a “a new mass media organization” funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Dan Froomkin and Jay Rosen also joined the new organization in varying capacities.

• Gawker’s Neetzan Zimmerman will be the editor-in-chief of a starting shareup called Whisper.

• Gabriel Snyder, formerly the editor-in-chief of The Wire, will be chief content officer of a mobile news startup called Inside.com.

• Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg’s site AllThingsD announced last year they would part ways with Dow Jones & Co. and relaunched as Re/Code this year. The Wall Street Journal launched a replacement site, WSJD. Both promised live events. Another spinoff from the Journal: The Information, a subscription tech-news site edited by former WSJ reporter Jessica Lessin.

• Proto-blogger Andrew Sullivan left The Daily Beast in early 2013 to relaunch his Daily Dish as an independent, subscription-based publication. Sullivan wrote on Dec. 31 that in its first year, the publication had raised more than $800,000 in subscription revenue and has “almost 34,000 subscribers.”

• The New York Times, while obviously not exactly a startup, announced late last year that it would launch “two newsroom startups,” including one headed by former Times Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt aimed at the same subject areas as FiveThirtyEight.com.

Writing in Politico, Dylan Byers and Hadas Gold wrote about the Post’s decision not to fund Klein. “Even if Bezos could have afforded to give Klein $10 million or more — the Amazon founder bought the paper for $250 million last year — the creation of a separate website was not seen as a wise investment for an organization that, for all its progress in the digital arena, still operates with relative caution.”

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  • Kevin Mireles

    $10 million is a huge investment – especially when you don’t have a product beyond yourself and your writing/analytics. Be hard to see anyone writing a check that big out of the gate unless they have money to blow and just like being associated with Ezra.
    Don’t get me wrong but while journalism can be profitable, it’s a very people intensive business that doesn’t generally match the profit profile of a typical software company or other VC backed companies.

  • Cal Damage

    As with many of the ludicrously wealthy, being good at one thing is assumed to mean they have similar expertise in many/most other areas.

  • Cal Damage

    Don’t drown in that freshwater, ani.

  • allison1050

    Ezra I’ll be looking for you and good luck!

  • anilpetra

    the word IGNORE is in IGNORANT.

    you know nothing about compensation practices in online media.

  • Nylund

    You seem to be presuming that they initially won’t be offering health insurance benefits to anyone (and that they can make the hires they want without offering such benefits). My guess is that Ezra’s new venture would offer health insurance benefits long before they get to 50 employees.

    The vast majority of firms with a number of employees right up near that 50 employee cut-off already offer insurance. The small businesses that don’t are typically in the 1-10 employee range.

  • Nylund

    As counter-intuitive as you may think it sounds, the argument that the video technology didn’t exist back then is actually pretty solid. Shooting metal containers into space with rockets, while cool, is actually an easier problem to solve than figuring out how to digitally record hours of continuous video footage in an era of low-powered refrigerator-sized computers.

    Yes, these days it’s hard to build nuclear weapons (just ask Iran), but a 16 gig USB thumb drive seems utterly common place. It’s hard to imagine an era where the latter is actually the far-fetched science fiction fantasy. There’s a reason that in the original Star Trek that while they could imagine a universe of intergalactic space travel, they couldn’t imagine the iPhone and gave Kirk and Spock communication devices that were essentially just walkie talkies.

    P.S. It wasn’t Plumer’s idea. He was reporting on a popular story at that time.

    http://www.geek.com/news/why-it-was-impossible-to-fake-the-1969-moon-landing-1537386/

  • Noah L

    I think your reply was illogical, because it ignores the premise that NASA couldn’t put a man on the moon. If NASA couldn’t put a man on the moon, it couldn’t have faked the video, either.

  • Noah L

    Bezos’ decision (unwisely) wasn’t about whether Wonkblog was worth $10 mil; it was whether EK was. He must feel there’s another EK, or better, out there, and this is a valid assumption. But the bigger question is the role of WaPo here. I suspect that Bezos may come to realize that Wonkblog itself would have been worth the investment, just as EZ will come to realize the value of writing for WaPo. I see a reunion in three years.

  • MVH1

    Ezra Klein a hack? He must not fit your political views.

  • MVH1

    Nobody’s smarter and better at this job than Ezra.

  • rokidtoo

    I hope Bezos knows what he’s doing. Running a news service is more than just working out the logistics. Although, it would be fun to have my WAPO delivered by drone.

  • bandmom

    Mainstream media is dying. And mainstream media hacks who go out on their own quickly find their irrelevance. Maybe he can get a job bootlicking inside the obama administration.

  • danbloom

    LOL

  • anilpetra

    It was time for the children to go.

    Can’t wait until Ezra has to do payroll and decide whether to grow to over 50 employees and suffer the horrible burden of Obamacare.

  • Starquest

    Hopefully there’s an increase in quality in his new venture. I read Wonkblog regularly, but there are a couple flunkies there who seem overeager to hit the “submit” button before really thinking about what they’re saying.

    As an example, Brad Plumer once claimed that NASA couldn’t have fake the moon landing for the simple reason that video quality back then was poor. I replied that NASA put a bleeping man on the moon; you don’t think they could have also developed decent video tech?

  • NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism

    Well, when Mommy and Daddy (along with your Rabbi) buy you a seat at The Washington Post at the age of 24, you believe you can do anything.

    And if you don’t get what you want, you just scream “antisemitism” (see Braun, Ryan) and run to the AIPAC-affiliated spin house with the best offshore compensation plan.

    If Mommy and Daddy (and his Rabbi) can’t buy Little Ezra the Grantland-538 operation that he demands and demands right now, you’ll see this sort of shtick from the boy and his handlers:

    http://www.jewishchronicle.org/article.php?article_id=14569

    Braun said specimen collector was anti-Semite to drum up support in ’12
    The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle
    August 19, 2013

    Milwaukee (JTA) — Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun during his appeal of a drug suspension in 2012 told players on opposing teams that the collector of his urine sample was an anti-Semite.

    Braun, the son of an Israeli-born Jewish father, was suspended in July for the remainder of this season for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement for his connection to the Biogenesis clinic, which provided performance-enhancing drugs to more than a dozen players.

    The 2011 Most Valuable Player had been suspended in 2012 for using performance-enhancing drugs, but successfully appealed the 50-game ban and denied he ever used PEDs.

    Braun called at least three veteran players to lobby for their support ahead of his appeal of the 2012 suspension, ESPN reported.

    He won the appeal after proving that the specimen collector, identified as Dino Laurenzi Jr., broke the chain of custody of the sample by storing it in his refrigerator and not sending it out for 44 hours.

    According to ESPN, Braun in his calls to the players also said Laurenzi was a Chicago Cubs fan, a division rival of the Brewers, implying that the sample collector would be working against Braun.

    Braun has been referred to as “The Hebrew Hammer.” His mother, Diane, a Catholic, has said, “He’s totally not Jewish.”

    “I heard some organization started called him ‘The Hebrew Hammer.’ I said, ‘Oh no.’ My mother would be rolling over in her grave if she heard that.”

    Copyright © The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

  • Barry_D

    In addition, it’s clear from the editorial page that Bezos will continue the Same Old Sh*t there. In Ezra’s case, at least, he’s got sufficient mainstream media cred to find better opportunities.

  • penny0314

    I am not surprised that Ezra Klein is leaving. Indeed, I wondered that he stayed so long. The Washington Post has engaged in a steady march to the right, so that now one cannot expect to find the kind of solid, measured, slightly left reporting for which it was so famous. I will continue to follow and enjoy the work of Ezra Klein. Unlike the Post, he has not compromised what he stands for.

  • buckguy

    WaPo has made him into a major hack, with the major following among establishment types and periodic mocking from more irreverent types that come with that status. Mission accomplished. The Post is in a tough spot—either give money to support hacks or be viewed as old fashioned for not giving money to support hacks. Either way, the Post’s irrelevance could not be greater.

  • Edward Ericson Jr
  • http://crayfisher.wordpress.com/ The Petulant Klown

    This reminds me of the story of the man who had a patronage job polishing the brass cannon in front of the local courthouse. He saved up his money, bought a brass cannon, and went into business for himself.