THE END JANUARY 21, 2014
This is how it ends: after weeks of listening to Washington buzz about it, you wake up and the lead story on Politico is about Ezra Klein leaving the Post to start his own journalistic venture, one that hopes to employ dozens and dozens of real, human journalists.
And then you sit down to blog about the event—having profiled Klein in the magazine a year ago—and realize that, at 31, you're about to start writing about how things were back when I got into the business.
And yet. Back when I got into the business, it was July 2005. I had been hired as a fact checker at The New Yorker, where the boss was also once a wunderkind who had also once worked at the Post. He had started there as a summer intern, then he got the cop beat, then boxing, then Moscow, and on and on until he rose to prominence and became editor of The New Yorker. If you worked hard and wanted it a lot, you too could climb the ranks to editorship in some good, solid place that put words on tree by-product.
But even that summer, there was already trouble a-brewing. There were these things called blogs and, in another year or two, that would be the conversation in the New York media world: are bloggers journalists? And then it turned meaner, cattier as those wondering became more scared about their bread: wait, are bloggers killing journalism?
It was a scary few years in journalism: ad dollars were plummeting, small local papers were closing, panicking media executives were both trying to harness these new things called internets and swatting them away. The question became more desperate, and more existential: will journalism survive?
It was around this time that I started studying for the LSATs, thinking that this industry was dying, and, even if it would survive, would there be money in it? It was enough to take one look at the middle-aged hacks who'd taken buy-outs because they had a mortgage and kids careening toward college age to think that this was not a star to hitch one's destiny to.
And then there's these boys living in dirty group houses in D.C. and blogging about things they know about and things they don't, and are they journalists? Why aren't they pounding the pavement with notebooks in their tweed jackets? But suddenly, it doesn't matter because the Post hires one of them—the one economist-cum-blogger Brad DeLong called the "Grand Hegemon"—to blog for them, even as it's slashing, slashing, slashing its traditional journalist staff, the ones covering the school boards and the ones editing that copy, and the survivors are furious because who is this guy? And then he starts hiring kids even younger than himself to be his under-bloggers, and recruiting the traditional older hacks to blog for him, and all the while there is what one staffer called "awkward cake" in the newsroom, constantly, to salute yet another departing real journalist, one who is probably older than Ezra Klein and has served his time covering the metro fires and the local cops, and yet.
And yet there it is: with Klein's departure from the Post to start his own multi-million-dollar project, the answers are in and the cycle of torment and doubt is over. Yes, journalism will survive, and yes there is money in it and jobs in it. And yes, bloggers are journalists. In fact, they'll be the ones employing you and your metro-beat street cred. The answers aren't Ezra's and Ezra isn't the answer, but this step is a kind of perfect denouement to the last decade of crisis, a perfect crystallization of the industry's phoenix-like arc. And this is how it ends, and thank god for that.
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