Ezra Klein, the founder of the Washington Post’s popular number-crunching column Wonkblog is leaving the paper to launch a new website after the Post declined to fund a major expansion of Wonkblog online.
Klein’s departure was widely rumored after a report earlier this month that Post publisher Katharine Weymouth and new owner Jeff Bezos turned down Klein’s request for at least $10 million to launch an explanatory journalism platform that would have run independently of the flagship paper.
“When Ezra joined us in 2009, he was a wunderkind blogger with brash confidence and a burning desire to write a column in the print newspaper,” a Post memo reads. “As he leaves us, Ezra is still a brash wunderkind, but now his burning desire has a grander scope: He is looking to start his own news organization, an ambition that befits someone with uncommon gifts of perception and analysis.”
Klein had pitched Weymouth and Bezos on a project devoted to “explanatory journalism on a wide range of topics beyond political policy,” asking for an eight-figure sum and a staff of more than three dozen. But the Post, which some would say already specializes in explanatory journalism on a wide range of topics, declined to fund it, or even propose a counter-offer, Politico reports.
Wonkblog, the section Klein launched when he joined the Post in 2009, will remain a brand within the Post. Klein is taking two other staffers, Dylan Matthews and Melissa Bell, to his new outfit.
Klein’s move to an independently financed venture built around a personal brand follows a model previously established by other journalists like Nate Silver, who is relaunching his 538 website at ESPN; Glenn Greenwald, who is preparing to launch a site backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar; and Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, who quit the Wall Street Journal to create the tech news site ReCode.
Here's the memo announcing Klein's departure:
We regret to announce that Ezra Klein, Melissa Bell and Dylan Matthews are leaving The Post for a new venture.
All three were instrumental in two of The Post’s most successful digital initiatives, Wonkblog and Know More. We plan to continue building those brands and expanding their reach, and we’ll have some exciting announcements related to them in the coming days.
When Ezra joined us in 2009, he was a wunderkind blogger with brash confidence and a burning desire to write a column in the print newspaper. As he leaves us, Ezra is still a brash wunderkind, but now his burning desire has a grander scope: He is looking to start his own news organization, an ambition that befits someone with uncommon gifts of perception and analysis. Ezra’s passion and drive will be missed, but we will take pride in watching him chart out his new venture.
Melissa has played a pivotal role in our digital strategy. As director of platforms, Melissa worked with the embedded developers to introduce WordPress as a secondary CMS, allowing for much of the development experimentation we’ve seen over the last year. She took over blog strategy and worked to hone the number of blogs and strengthen existing brands. She also managed to find time for some writing while here, driving our live coverage expansion, penning a Style column for more than a year, blogging for BlogPost and Style Blog and writing magazine stories. But her biggest strength is her personality, a combination of relentless determination and self-deprecating humor that helped her motivate young developers.
Dylan Matthews is a wunderkind in his own right. A blogger since middle school, Dylan had freelanced for Slate and worked at the American Prospect — before his 18th birthday. He started contributing to Wonkblog while still a student at Harvard and jumped in full-time in 2012. Last year he launched Know More, which was an instant hit. We will miss his humor and sharp instincts for what works on the Web.
Please join us in wishing Ezra, Melissa and Dylan the best and thanking them for their many contributions to The Post.