Jack Shafer

Press critic Jack Shafer to join Politico

The Huffington Post

Jack Shafer, formerly a media critic for Slate and Reuters, will join Politico, according to a staff memo from Politico editor Susan Glasser.

At Politico, Shafer’s duties will include writing a regular column and reporting out longer pieces, according to the memo.

As we begin the quadrennial follies of a presidential election amid a wave of media disruption, Jack promises to be the indispensable guide to the political tumult, who always calls it like he sees it and whose sharp insights and razor observations come accompanied not only by deeply informed reporting – but also by a requisite sense of the long history underpinning all this narrative of American political journalism.

Shafer was most recently a media critic for Reuters, a job he was let go from in November. Upon his departure, Shafer told Poynter he wasn’t taking the news hard.

“I’m fine,” Shafer told Poynter. “My philosophy is that the job belongs to the employer,” he said. “When they want to do something else with the money, that’s their prerogative.”

Before Shafer joined Reuters, he was a longtime press critic for Slate. Before that he was editor of Washington City Paper and San Francisco Weekly.

Shafer will start on Tuesday, according to the memo:

All – The incomparable Jack Shafer is joining us! Jack is the premier press critic of our time, and we can’t wait to welcome him to POLITICO. Luckily, we won’t have to wait long; he’ll start here on Tuesday, launching a regular new column for us and doing more longform reporting and feature-length articles. As we begin the quadrennial follies of a presidential election amid a wave of media disruption, Jack promises to be the indispensable guide to the political tumult, who always calls it like he sees it and whose sharp insights and razor observations come accompanied not only by deeply informed reporting – but also by a requisite sense of the long history underpinning all this narrative of American political journalism. Jack’s resume is of course the perfect one to enable him to play the referee: he’s tried just about every kind of journalistic reinvention himself. Until recently, he wrote a column about the press and politics for Reuters; for 15 years before that he worked at Slate, first as deputy editor and then as the site’s Press Box columnist. Prior to Slate he spent 11 years editing two alternative weeklies—San Francisco Weekly and Washington City Paper. And before that he was managing editor of a now-defunct political magazine called Inquiry.

Please join us in welcoming Jack!

Read more

Anchors met in secret with Darren Wilson

Good morning. Welcome to a short week! Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Anchors negotiated in secret with Darren Wilson

    Matt Lauer, George Stephanopoulos, Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon are among the television personalities who've met with Ferguson, Missouri, Police Officer Darren Wilson, Brian Stelter reports. There is some potential money for subjects of these bidding wars, Jim Moret explains -- in licensing photos. But mostly it's about comfort and timing. (CNN) | "When 'off the record' is used to protect not only what’s said in a particular meeting, but also the meeting itself, it becomes a tool not so much for journalists but for the sources seeking to own them." (WP)

  2. Meanwhile, in Ferguson

    Police said journalist Trey Yingst was standing in the road, but "as this reporter and a multitude of other witnesses saw firsthand -- and as was captured on video -- Yingst was not in the street." (HuffPost) | Judge: Police in Missouri can't stop reporters from recording them. (AP) | L.A. Times reporter Matt Pearce got "got hit in head w/something" but is OK and Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery was tweeting for him. (Instagram: mattdpearce)

  3. "Fellows" replace interns

    "Ben Smith, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed, said that his company’s internships and fellowships were in fact different. Interns work for three months and make $12 an hour. Fellows work for three months and make $12 but follow a 'structured curriculum.'" (NYT)

  4. Daily Currant article leads to epic NYT correction

    "An earlier version of this column was published in error. That version included what purported to be an interview that Kanye West gave to a Chicago radio station in which he compared his own derrière to that of his wife, Kim Kardashian. Mr. West’s quotes were taken, without attribution, from the satirical website The Daily Currant. There is no radio station WGYN in Chicago; the interview was fictitious, and should not have been included in the column." (NYT) | Craig Silverman digs up the uncorrected version of Joyce Wadler’s column (which is named “I Was Misinformed”). (Poynter)

  5. Marion Barry and the media

    The former D.C. mayor's death Sunday brought a bunch of former local reporters back on the Barry beat. | Jack Shafer: "When covering Marion Barry, many journalists have written themselves into the scenes with him not just because it made for good copy, but because his megalomania enhanced theirs." (Washington City Paper) | David Carr: "Everyone who covered Barry will shake their head at his ward heeler ways, his smoke-and-mirror budgeting, his inability to bring any of his employees or departments to account. ... Those same people, including me, would tell you that on a personal level, no one was more fun to talk to." (Washingtonian) | Who dubbed Barry "Mayor for Life"? Richard Cohen says he did. (WP) | Barry credited former Washington City Paper columnist Ken Cummins. (@jon_fischer) | An archive of "the single person Washington City Paper has written the most sentences about in the paper's 33 years." (WCP) | Some Barry fans petitioned TMZ to change its "Crack Mayor" headline. (WCP) | Washington Post front page. | Express front page. | Washington Times front page. (All courtesy the Newseum.)

  6. Tribune Publishing rescinds discretionary vacation policy

    In the future, employees will have "better opportunity for input," CEO Jack Griffin says. (Romenesko)

  7. RIP Michael Shanahan

    The former AP journalist and educator would listen patiently when angry Redskins fans would call him to complain about the team. He died Saturday. (ABC News) | W. Joseph Campbell's remarks at a memorial service for Ohio Wesleyan University journalism teacher Verne E. Edwards, who exhibited a "modesty rather rare in the academy." (Media Myth Alert)

  8. How are news orgs different from software companies?

    Journalists who do their jobs well "end up being ostracised or imprisoned rather than ringing the opening bell at the New York stock exchange," Emily Bell writes. (The Guardian)

  9. Bloggers are better together

    When affiliated bloggers abandoned their personal blogs and published together on the Daily Banter, they found their audience and a business model. (PBS MediaShift)

  10. Front page of the day, not curated by Kristen Hare

    The Journal News on the typographic dangers of texting. (Courtesy the Newseum)

Ben Mullin's job moves is on vacation this week. Corrections? Tips? Please email me: abeaujon@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here. Read more

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Washington Post looks toward national audience with Kindle Fire app

Good morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Washington Post looks toward national audience with new Kindle Fire app

    This is important: It will not provide local news. Updates every day at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Free for six months, a buck for the next six months. (WP) | Post people said owner Jeff Bezos "had made it clear, through meetings with executives and through feedback on ideas and proposals, that The Post’s broad strategy should shift toward growing its national and international audience — in direct contrast to its previous mission of narrowing its focus to local news." (NYT) | The Post also launched "BrandConnect Perspective" Thursday, a native advertising initiative for opinion pieces. First up is Bayer, with "Modern Agriculture is Based on Sound Science." (WP) | Related: Former Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli's North Base Media is an investor in Inkl, a "Spotify for media content." (StartupSmart)

  2. Bill Cosby and the media

    "I think if you want to consider yourself to be serious, it will not appear anywhere," he warns Brett Zongker after declining to comment on rape allegations. (AP) | Ta-Nehisi Coates: "I would not dismiss all journalists who've declined to mention these allegations as cowards." (The Atlantic) | Cosby, Terrence Howard, R. Kelly: "a lot of arts writing is PR driven, and talk of arrests and assaults is off-message," Bill Wyman wrote earlier this month. "But that doesn’t excuse the straight news sections’ inability to relate the basic facts of these cases." (CJR)

  3. Reuters lets Jack Shafer go

    “I’m fine,” the media columnist told Poynter. “My philosophy is that the job belongs to the employer. When they want to do something else with the money, that’s their prerogative.” (Poynter) | "Ours is a great business," Shafer tells Peter Sterne. "I’d take your job." (Capital) | Thomson Reuters plans to eliminate as many as 55 editorial jobs. (BuzzFeed)

  4. The Uber stories continue

    Michael Wolff invited BuzzFeed EIC Ben Smith to the dinner for "influentials" where a company executive mused publicly about spending a million bucks to dig up dirt on a critical journalist. The night "was a convivial evening" and "Smith's portrait is at odds with the event," he writes. (USA Today) | Dylan Byers: "it's troubling to watch the digital lynch mob on Twitter promote the idea that a man should be fired from his job because he floated an idea, however unsavory, over dinner." (Politico) | Silicon Valley publications are in a tight spot with this and similar stories because "many of these publications make a significant portion of their revenue from live events and conferences that feature appearances by the big-name tech executives they cover. Some publications also rely on investments from venture capital firms that have stakes in the start-ups they cover." (NYT) | What Uber drivers make. (BuzzFeed) | U.S. Sen. Al Franken writes the company, asks whether it disciplined the blabby executive, Emil Michael. (Al Franken) | Uber's more guarded about customer data when New York's taxi commission wants it than, say, when it wants to blog about "Rides of Glory." (Capital)

  5. MailOnline will rip off Daily Mail's name

    Kidding, kidding, they're part of the same publication. MailOnline has massive traffic but profitability eludes. So it will become DailyMail.com in the U.S. to help bridge the brand gap. CEO Jon Steinberg plans to goose sales of native ads, which MailOnline reporters create. (WSJ)

  6. It's Old Newsboys Day in St. Louis

    Volunteers sell a special newspaper this morning around town to help raise money for local children's charities. Here's where you can find a newsboy: (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  7. Media orgs are obsessed with intersections

    Erik Wemple takes apart the cliché. (WP)

  8. Watch your pens around Josh Mankeiwicz

    The NBC News reporter bombs a lie detector test when asked about stealing office supplies. (NBC News)

  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare

    A Depew, New York, resident tries to tunnel out. More snow is falling. Also, the band Interpol is stuck. (Courtesy the Newseum)


  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin

    Anthony DeMaio is now publisher of Slate. Previously, he was president of national sales there. (Politico) | Chelsea Janes will cover the Washington Nationals for The Washington Post. She covers high school sports there. (Washington Post) | Sophia Papaioannou is now editorial director at HuffPost Greece. She hosts "360 Degrees". Nikos Agouros is now editor-in-chief of HuffPost Greece. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of VimaMen. (Huffington Post) | Steve Unger will be interim CEO at Ofcom. He is director of strategy, international technology and economy there. (The Guardian) | The Associated Press is looking for a supervisory correspondent in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: abeaujon@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

Correction: This post originally said the Post's Kindle app would cost $1 per month after a trial period. Six months' access will cost $1 after the trial period. Read more


Jack Shafer says Reuters let him go

BuzzFeed | The Washington Post

Reuters media critic Jack Shafer tells Poynter Reuters let him go.

“I’m fine,” Shafer told Poynter. “My philosophy is that the job belongs to the employer,” he said. “When they want to do something else with the money, that’s their prerogative.”

He announced his departure on Twitter.

Matthew Zeitlin reported in BuzzFeed Wednesday that Reuters planned to lay off as 55 people.

Shafer said he wasn’t conversant with HR terminology and that Reuters removed him in a “very respectful and professional manner.”

As for his future plans, Shafer says he plans to “get Fugazi back together as my next trick.”

Shafer’s departure signals a shift from the current Web strategy at Reuters, Erik Wemple writes:

Despite all its scoops on business and finance, it has had trouble figuring out how to adapt key business products — subscriptions and financial information terminals — to the digital age.

Shafer was Slate’s media columnist but was laid off from that job in 2011. “Everybody in our business has to see this coming,” he said at the time, adding that journalists should look “both ways when they cross the street.” Read more


Henry Waxman retires — must be the scoldings from media critics

Orange County Register | Reuters

U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman announced plans to retire Thursday. In a statement on his website, the California Democrat said he was “not leaving out of frustration with Congress” and that it was “time for someone else to have the chance to make his or her mark.” All excellent, plausible reasons to leave a job after 20 terms in office. But I know the real reason he left — he couldn’t handle the disapproval of media critics!

Oh sure, you say, media critics are the least-feared workers of the journalistic trade, people who pounce on typos and plagiarism scandals as if they were of equal importance. You might even make the case that Waxman isn’t aware of media criticism (as if such a thing were possible). I’m just saying, the timing is suspicious, that’s all. Consider: Read more


Jack Shafer to cover media and politics for Reuters

New York | Jack Shafer
Jack Shafer, who recently was laid off as Slate’s media critic, is headed to Reuters to cover media and politics for its opinion section. Shafer tweets that Reuters editors “interrupted my plans to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, and criticize after dinner with an offer — which I’ve accepted — to write about media and politics for Reuters. I’m damn happy. Thanks, oh, my tweeps.” New York magazine’s Noreen Malone broke the news, saying “the tone, frequency, and length will be very similar to his output at Slate, where Shafer typically wrote shortish columns several times a week.” || Related: On Jill Abramson’s first day as New York Times executive editor, Hamilton Nolan suggests that she hire Jack Shafer as public editor. || Earlier: Shafer will continue to write for Slate, but not about media. || Advice: Following layoff, Jack Shafer tells journalists: ‘Always be looking’ Read more


‘It’s time for Slate to fully embrace its startup roots’

Reuters.com | Poynter Online
Paul Smalera suggests a Slate-Washington Post Co. divorce. “What Slate needs is a CEO, someone who can lead a spinoff, attract venture capital, talent in the engineering, sales and business staffs with the prospects of equity and a clean, er, slate, with which to reinvent the modern online magazine.” He’d like to see “a real technologist and business person” like Google News’s Josh Cohen offered the chance to transform Slate into something venture capitalists like Fred Wilson, Chris Sacca and Reid Hoffman would invest in.

Slate was the original, crazy experiment of its time. It won the fierce loyalty of a generation of readers. But it’s time to re-run the experiment, exploiting the cash-rich, talent-starved startup environment of 2011, and see what the editorial mission of Slate — indeed, of online journalism as a whole — can become over the next 15 years.

Jack Shafer was asked in today’s Poynter chat if Slate restricted what he could say about the operations there, post-layoff? “I am absolutely free to speak my mind about Slate, past, present, and future,” he said. “So, yes, if I thought their digestive tract needed a new exit point, I could dig one with a rusty butter knife.” Read more


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

Adweek | Washington Post | Politico | AJR
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: 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” Read more


Slate lays off press critic Shafer, others

Adweek.com | American Journalism Review
“We have made some editorial changes, including a small reduction in our full time staff and our contractors,” says Slate editor David Plotz. “Press Box” columnist Jack Shafer confirms in an email to Adweek’s Dylan Byers that he was laid off, but says he’ll continue as a contributor. Plotz tells Byers:

The industry we’re in changes very quickly. This was a decision that made sense both financially and editorially. It was a painful decision for us. But it was a decision that we think—coupled with some new editorial and technological investments that we’re going to make—will pay off in the long run.

In a just-posted American Journalism Review profile of Shafer, Erik Wemple calls the Slate veteran “utterly uncorrupted by friendship, money, power, anything. He is ruthless with people he doesn’t know, but what is impressive is how ruthless he can be with the people he knows.”

Times executive editor Bill Keller is a fan:

I admire Shafer for taking his subject seriously enough to do his homework and think things through. He’s working in a field that sometimes seems to have been overrun by the snarkoleptics, who blow raspberries for a living. He’s fun to read, but there’s usually an actual idea in his pieces, and some reporting, and some sense of history.

Read more

Patch critiques raise questions, defense of hyperlocal journalism

Slate | SimsBlog
Reports that AOL will spend $120 million on Patch this year have started a fresh wave of skepticism about the financial viability of Patch, and hyperlocal journalism as a whole.

Earlier this week, Judy Sims noted problems, including that “most local advertisers are high-maintenance clients that are time consuming and expensive to acquire and difficult to retain.” She suggests AOL should focus on building its national sites in specific verticals (which it has been consolidating into 20 “power brands,” with many merging into The Huffington Post). The vertical sites could then include local content on those topics, Sims wrote. “What if you could go on ParentDish, Aol Autos, KitchenDaily or Engaget and drill down from the national level to also see local content, listings and ads?”

Then Jack Shafer wrote for Slate that Patch’s problems may show hyperlocal efforts are a “complete waste of time and resources.” He argues:

I’m convinced that Web users are more interested in hypercoverage of their interests — sports teams, hobbies, food, vacations, family, games, et al. — than they are of the starving-artists exhibition at the farmer’s market, increasing parking-meter rates, the city budget, local real estate prices, or many of the other topics covered in Patch. Besides being wildly expensive to create, hyperlocal news doesn’t seem to appeal to a broad audience.”

In the comments on his piece, several people defended non-Patch hyperlocal efforts. Batavian publisher Howard Owens said local news is only expensive to publish “if you have a big corporate structure to support and shareholder demands to meet. There are a handful of successful local online ventures that produce a ton of highly engaging, sought after, popular, memorable local news that do it at a fraction of the cost of the corporate entities.”

West Seattle Blog’s Tracy Record said, “For those of us operating independent community news sites, it is a business that is NOT ‘wildly expensive’ to run — Patch makes the classic error of adding the middle-management layer, among other expenses — and it is of great interest.”

Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University journalism professor, said the problem was not lack of interest in local news, but that you can’t “impose a corporate, cookie-cutter approach in covering local communities.”

EARLIER: Knight News Challenge learns hyperlocal efforts are best when homegrown Read more

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