The Mirror

WaPo Media Reporter Erik Wemple Conveniently Leaves Out Facts About His Fired Friend

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger

On Monday CapitalNY reported the news that Jack Shafer, a new media columnist for Politico, had been fired from his 3-month-old position with the New York Times “The Ethicists” podcast.

You can always count on WaPo‘s rarely reported media blogger Erik Wemple to offer a clean version of the truth, right? Yeah, or else, well, wrong. Shafer is a good friend of Wemple’s, which he graciously admits in his calculated puff piece that breezily criticizes the NYT project in a disdainful tone but fails to mention that this is the third job from which Shafer has been fired in recent years.

You think that information might be relevant? Sure it is. But not to Wemple.

Remember, “full disclosure: He’s a friend.”

Which is why Shafer raced to Wemple in the first place — no doubt, WaPo’s media blogger was a soft landing. Must be nice.

Full disclosure: Shafer isn’t my friend. Neither is Wemple.

And I will tell you about his recent firings.

Let’s review.

Summer, 2011: Shafer, then a writer for Slate, gets laid off. Shortly thereafter, he goes to work for Reuters.

November, 2014: Reuters fires Shafer. He reports the news on Twitter, saying, “Many thanks to all at Reuters for 3-plus heavenly years. As Stanley Kubrick once said, ‘The only problem is, what to do next.'” Poynter first reported that Reuters had “let him go.” The media site asked Shafer how he was feeling: “I’m fine,” Shafer told Poynter. “My philosophy is that the job belongs to the employer,” he said. “When they want to do something else with the money, that’s their prerogative.”

January, 2015: Politico comes calling. Shafer’s friend Susan Glasser hires him. Rumors swirl that Politico wants to make some changes with the media coverage and Shafer is the management favorite. So in early January, Wemple’s “friend” Jack Shafer goes to work for Politico. Wemple proudly writes the whole thing up, not once mentioning his friend’s firings from Slate and Reuters.

This is how Wemple reports news like that:

“As Glasser announced this morning, Shafer, the former media critic for Slate magazine and, more recently, Reuters, will be joining Politico on Tuesday.”

He went on to declare that Glasser’s decision to hire his “friend” Shafer was an absolutely pivotal move. Yes, the Messiah has arrived to Politico.

“The hiring of Shafer is perhaps the starkest indication yet of the direction that Glasser has mapped out for the eight-year-old publication. Having taken over after the abrupt departure of former executive editor Rick Berke, Glasser has moved the publication from what was once a short-attention-spanned scoop mill to a political journal with greater analytical and intellectual depth.”

Really. So he forgets to mention that his “friend” Shafer was twice fired, but he remembers to say that his friend’s presence will offer Politico “greater analytical and intellectual depth.”

He goes on to fully endorse Shafer, just in case you didn’t notice how far up Shafer’s anal cavity Wemple was willing to go.

“Consistent with Glasser’s endorsement, Shafer has a bottomless grasp of media history, technology and First Amendment issues that enables him to cast a fresh perspective on whatever random kerfuffle pops up on Twitter. He’s a great hire (and, full disclosure, a friend of the Erik Wemple Blog).”

And to think Wemple was absolutely SHOCKED when his friend returned his phone call.

“And one refreshing note: I e-mailed Shafer for an interview, and he called. That sounds simple, but it’s a wonder given Politico’s culture of limiting the interactions of employees with media reporters. When I asked whether he’d cleared the interview with Politico’s PR folks, Shafer responded, ‘I don’t even know who runs PR.'”

February, 2015: Things are really looking up for Shafer. NYT Magazine hotshot editor Jake Silverstein brings Shafer aboard to be a part of a three-person Ethicist podcast.

May, 2015: Things aren’t quite working out. That NYT mag editor lets Shafer go.

At which point Wemple declares that the Ethicist column is “already showing signs of wobbliness.” After all, the Erik Wemple Blog has no time to listen to such nonsense. The Ethicist, he says, is a print product, not a podcast.

Please, quickly pass the barf bags.