As a journalist, I'm always sad to hear that a publication is closing. But the announcement today that the Washington Independent will cease operations on December 1 is a particular loss for Washington journalism.
Area publications have taken their turns as incubators of hot young talent. The American Prospect sent Matt Yglesias off to the Atlantic and then the Center for American Progress and Ezra Klein off to the Washington Post. In recent years, writers like Dayo Olopade and Jamie Kirchick developed their voices at the New Republic.
But even by those standards, the Independent was on a unusual Streak. In 2010 alone, Dave Weigel went from the Independent to the Washington Post (and then to Slate), Spencer Ackerman went from the Independent to Wired's Danger Room blog, and Annie Lowrey went from the Independent to Slate.
The Independent encouraged all of them to do deep, innovative reporting, and it shifted coverage areas depending on its reporters' beats. That may not have made for a stable publication, but it did make the Independent a great staging ground for young reporters, and a publisher of a lot of great journalism. Even if the Independent wasn't an entirely conventional news site, it made tremendous contributions to Washington journalism. It's too bad donors didn't turn out to be interested in that project. I can only hope that other publications recognize the tremendous value of the Independent's remaining staff, and bring that same innovative, developmental spirit into their newsrooms, and do it quickly.