Vox Media co-founder Ezra Klein and the Vox.com editor in chief Lauren Williams are both leaving the company, the latest digital news pioneers to jump ship as their startups struggle amid the pandemic.
Klein, editor at large at Vox, said Friday he will leave and scrap his podcast “The Ezra Klein Show” as he heads to the New York Times as an opinion columnist and a political podcast host. Klein, author of the bestselling book “Why We Are Polarized,” had teamed with Vox’s current publisher Melissa Bell and Matt Yglesias to launch Vox in 2004.
Williams, meanwhile, is launching “Capital B,” a nonprofit startup that aims to create a news outlet for civic journalism for black communities.
“If I thought Vox were weak, or fragile, or in crisis, or it needed me, I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t even consider it,” Klein said in a farewell note to staff. “I know where our business is, and I know how many revenue lines we have, and how well we’ve weathered this year’s storm.”
He’s the second of the trio of co-founders to exit Vox in recent days. Yglesias left Vox last week to start his own newsletter on Substack called Slow Boring. On his new site which was already up and running last week, Yglesias cited “an inherent tension between my status as a co-founder of the site and my desire to be a fiercely independent and times contentious voice.”
The sole remaining co-founder, Bell, said in a memo to staffers Friday, “It is a time of transition.” She is planning to split Williams’ job in two and plans to add 10 new staff writing jobs.
Vox was hit hard by a COVID-19-driven advertising plunge early this year, furloughing 100 people in April and cutting salaries — and then converting 72 of the furloughed jobs into outright layoffs in July. More recently, CEO Jim Bankoff said advertising is rebounding and he plans to begin matching contributions to the 401K plan and give all employees a $1,000 year-end bonus.
Other digital pioneers who have left in recent months include former Buzzfeed editor in chief Ben Smith, now a media columnist at the New York Times; Lydia Polgreen, who jumped from EIC at HuffPost to head podcast company Gimlet Media; and Glenn Greenwald, a columnist and co-founder of The Intercept who claimed editors were trying to censor his articles that were critical of president-elect Joe Biden.
Greenwald is also among the writers who are jumping to Substack, as did former New York magazine Andrew Sullivan.
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