June 9, 2014

Washingtonian | Jack Limpert

Michael Schaffer was named editor of the city magazine Washingtonian Monday. In a brief phone call with Poynter, Schaffer noted he is a native of D.C. and said “the idea of editing a mag and website that could take on the city and this region in a big ambitious way was just really appealing.”


Schaffer was previously The New Republic’s editorial director; he took that job in June 2012 after a stint as editor of Washington City Paper.

Washingtonian is “in a really good place right now,” Schaffer said. The magazine has managed the last few years pretty well, he said. According to the Alliance for Audited Media, Washingtonian’s paid and verified print circulation has declined less than 5 percent since 2009 — not bad, all things considered. The magazine’s media kit claims 700,000 monthly unique users to its website (Compete.com says Washingtonian had about 126,000 uniques in April).

Schaffer said he plans “to spend the first few months there doing a lot of listening, a lot of learning.” Asked what Redskins owner Dan Snyder might expect from the magazine (he sued City Paper when Schaffer was editor, over an article he didn’t read), Schaffer replied, “like I said, I’m going to do a lot of listening.”

He hopes Washingtonian will do “great, fun, important stories” under his regime, and that the magazine’s trademark service journalism (best-doctor and -dentist lists, that sort of thing) will be “even better than ever.” Schaffer wasn’t sure about staffing plans, stressing again that he planned to do a lot of listening and learning.

Former Washingtonian Editor Jack Limpert wrote last year about a group he called the City Paper Mafia, a group that includes me. Schaffer’s ascendance at Washingtonian, Limpert writes, is “yet another move in the City Paper Mafia’s attempt at media-wide domination.” It’s a funny point, but it also brings up the question about how Schaffer’s sensibility, honed at mainstream publications as well as at the alt-weekly, will mesh with Washingtonian’s.

“My sensibility is my own,” Schaffer said. “I think a good city magazine is really savvy and knowing about its region, and that’s the sensibility I have.” That came through at City Paper, he said. “I hope it will come through at Washingtonian, too.”

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
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