News & Politics

Who Will Replace Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post?

The long-time media critic is headed to the Daily Beast. Who can fill his keyboard?

The news that long-time Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz is jumping ship to Tina Brown's upstart Daily Beast to head the web site's Washington bureau raises a lot of fascinating questions. What does this mean for the Post's appeal to veteran journalists as an employer? Will Brown be substantially expanding the Beast's Washington coverage, becoming a player along with Politico, the Hill, Roll Call, National Journal, and the new Bloomberg publications that may overshadow them all? And who will inherit Kurtz's keyboard at a time when the Washington media landscape is undergoing seismic changes? Here are a couple of possibilities the Post might consider:

1. Jack Shafer, currently at Slate: Dave Weigel went from the Post to Slate this summer. Maybe it's time for a trade in the other direction (albeit with less trauma). Shafer knows Washington media from the alt-weekly world up, a useful perspective on a city full of political publications and reporters who play inside baseball games on fields from party committee headquarters to the Office of Personnel Management. His Press Box column never hesitates to take sharp aim at figures other critics avoid putting in the cross-hairs (he's one of the few people to take on Atlantic Media's David Bradley, for example). He would be a credible additional ombudsman for the Post, and a clear-eyed observer of its rivals.

2. Foster Kamer, currently at the Village Voice: Who knows if this Gawker and BlackBook alum would want to come to Washington? But if the Post wanted to find a blogger and columnist to cover media like Ezra Klein covers health care and economics, they'd find a distinctive—and sometimes acerbic—voice in Kamer, who tweeted "WaPo's better off. Empathy to friends at TDB, their workplace just got that much more insufferable. Have fun teaching him WordPress," upon hearing of Kurtz's departure. But for all his attitude, Kamer's a dogged reporter with a strong moral sense for how the media should operate. He'd be a different kind of outsider than Shafer, but it could be useful to have a critic who can put the Washington press corps in the context of the larger world of New York.

3. William Powers, currently writing books: Powers spent the last two years on his first book, Hamlet's Blackberry, an exploration of life in the digital age. But prior to that, he was a savvy media critic for National Journal (where, full disclosure, I fact-checked his work) and created the New Republic's media column. Powers tends to focus on media as an industry, rather than as a collection of individuals. And he's lived outside of Washington for years. But he's a very smart observer of media's interaction with politics, and his time thinking about the digital age give him a valuable mix of experience unaffected by hostility for technological changes in media.

4. Mark Feldstein, currently at George Washington University: Feldstein currently teaches media and public affairs, he's been an investigative reporter for CNN and ABC, and he has a new biography of muckraker Jack Anderson out last month. He's got the most versatile media resume of anyone on this list, an asset in a town obsessed with Sunday shows and MSNBC and Fox hits. And he's also a media law expert, useful in a time of debates over leaking and shield laws. But he has less experience with online journalism, a growing part of the beat.

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