Shafer will continue to write for Slate, but not about media

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Jack Shafer says he received a severance from Slate — he was laid off Wednesday, along with Tim Noah, June Thomas, and Juliet Lapidos — and was asked to continue writing as a freelancer. “I’ve accepted,” he tells Dylan Byers, but “it won’t be press coverage. I’ll stir up the press animals in another venue.” (“I hope we hire Shafer,” tweets Reuters social media editor Anthony DeRosa, “cause somebody sure as hell will.”)

Why was he let go? “It was a decision made for financial and editorial future reasons,” says Slate editor David Plotz. “Jack is obviously a brilliant journalist.” Eric Wemple writes:

Plotz says that Shafer has been a “great colleague and great friend over many years” but clams up when probed for something more. And Shafer says that he was “happy for David to be my boss, and he’s been a good boss” but clams up when probed for something more.

Neither is much for sentimentality. Perhaps that explains why there won’t be one of those “so long” pieces when Shafer finishes up at Slate on Sept. 2. “Farewell columns are bush league,” he says.

American Journalism Review editor Rem Rieder, who put a Shafer profile just before the Slate layoffs were announced, wonders why the online publication axed “someone who is performing at such a high level? …. This is a truly befuddling and disappointing decision.” || Earlier stories:
> Shafer says he gets up at 2 a.m. to read front pages of major papers
> Why Shafer once considered changing the name of his column to “Litter Box”
> Shafer discovers NYT plagiarism while hunting for “Stupidest Drug Story”

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  • Anonymous

    I remember one chilling day at the Chicago Tribune during which an executive in the online world made an argument that quality simply does not matter, that it’s all about page views and so on. I said something about our obligation to tell people unpleasant truths clearly and honestly, but it was like arguing with a stapler. Anyone who would let Jack walk away simply doesn’t understand the role truth plays, even in the hopping modern world. Best of luck in whatever he does. He was a mandatory read and will remain a mandatory read.

  • Allen Lee


  • GlennF

    I suspect the answer is simple economics. Slate doesn’t have that many full-time writers on staff, and Shafer’s an easier item to cut from the budget than the output of 20 freelancers.

  • Chris Houchens

    Emily Yoffe’s stuff would have been a smarter cut.