Jack Shafer Joins Reuters

In interview, former Slate columnist says he's 'damn happy' about move

Media critic Jack Shafer, who was laid off by Slate last month, announced Tuesday that he had been hired as a columnist at Reuters, where he will report to opinion editor James Ledbetter. 

“The Shafer Bubble has burst and I've landed in the vast and verdant field that is Reuters, where I'll labor as a columnist for [news editor] Steve Adler, [global editor at large] Chrystia Freeland, [Thompson Reuters Digital editor] Jim Impoco, and James Ledbetter,” he wrote in an email. “I'm damn happy.”

In a conversation on Tuesday afternoon, Shafer shared the details of his new assignment with Adweek:

Adweek: So you’re 'damn happy?'

Shafer: Yeah, how can you beat it, given the people I’m going to be able to work with over there?

I heard they’ve been trying to hire you since before you left Slate?

My view is that you always need to be talking to people about your next job. I am always talking with lots of people—and that’s the duty of all journalists. You need to be prepared. As Mike Kinsley says, you’re either a mercenary or a slave in this business. I prefer to be a mercenary.

Are you going to be doing the same thing that you were doing at Slate, or will there be differences?

I’m going to be doing the same thing, only more. I’ll write about politics, I’ll write about the media. I’ll write about the intersection of media and politics, culture. You know, what’s great about Reuters is that it’s got so many people great to work with, and so many great ideas that I think the sky is the limit. But the concentration will be media and politics.

How frequently will you be writing?

To be determined. They would be happy to transplant the tree from Slate into Reuters, but we all have bigger ambitions than that. So to say, ‘Two and three-quarters columns a week and four blog posts’—If I told you that, I’d be talking out of my ass. It’s to be determined. I don’t want to give you an answer and have you say, "But Jack! You told me your were going to write three columns a week; you’re writing four. You’re a fucking liar!”

I would say that.

Yeah. My kids get really embarrassed when I do this over the phone. They’re not here, thank god.

But yeah, I’m not going to reinvent fire. They’re hiring me for the skills that I seem to have, and they want to deploy them.

Are you going to be working out of home or the office?

The Washington bureau of Reuters.

And how’s the drinking problem?

When I was in New York last week, Jim Impoco and James Ledbetter tried to poison me with alcohol. So I think rather than alcoholism developing here, we have alcohol aversion therapy. I was limping the next day. Never drink with pros.

There was a Gawker item today that suggested you should be the next Public Editor at The New York Times.

Well, at Reuters I get to be Public Editor to the universe. Which to me is a superior job to the Public Editor of the New York Times. [Reuters] is a fantastic operation. It’s just a remarkable team.