Audit Notes: No Post counteroffer for Ezra, OC Register, celebrity offspring

Politico reports the paper didn't bother with a counteroffer

After getting shut down in his bid for 10 million big ones to launch a new site, Ezra Klein is out at the Washington Post.

Details are still sketchy about what exactly he’s got in mind, and Dean Starkman’s got a few thoughts on why it’s no advantage to be an early mover in this game.

Interestingly, Politico reports that the Post never even made him a counteroffer on his pitch:

But when Klein proposed the creation of an independent, explanatory journalism website — with more than three dozen staffers and a multiyear budget north of $10 million — the Post said enough is enough. Indeed, Jeff Bezos, the Post’s new owner, and Katharine Weymouth, its publisher, never even offered an alternative figure, sources familiar with the negotiations said.

Then again, Politico also reports that Wonkblog averaged 4 million pageviews a month, which seems wrong (on the low side) and, apparently, is wrong.

Whether Klein was worth a $10 million-plus investment is an open question. But without a doubt, his loss is blow to the Post.

The paper still has first-rate reporting, but it’s probably going to regret not keeping Klein around (assuming he’s learned anything from Charlie Pierce in the last year).

Meantime, The New York Times reports that Klein is in talks with Vox Media about his new venture, but it wouldn’t be a terrible idea for the NYT itself to get into talks with Klein. It’s already got experience with its own personal franchise, Andrew Ross Sorkin and his (apparently profitable) DealBook.

That ill-advised dividend the Sulzbergers reinstated a few months ago is costing the company $24 million a year it could be investing in higher-risk/higher-potential ventures like this, which in this case probably cost no more than a sixth as much per year.

— The Times’s David Carr went to visit The Orange County Register last week to check in on this rare newspaper growth story.

It turned into yet another column on newspaper layoffs:

Even after the layoffs, Mr. Kushner expects to produce the new Los Angeles Register with existing staff using satellite offices, which seems like a reach, given his commitment to hyperlocal coverage; it will take a lot of boots on the ground to cover over 80 towns in Los Angeles County…

He wouldn’t say so, but he is seeking scale. The greater Los Angeles market includes three operators — Freedom; the MediaNews Group, which owns The Daily News and several other newspapers in the area; and the Tribune Company, which owns The Times — that have all gone through bankruptcy, and their backers may be looking for an exit. With consolidation in the air, Mr. Kushner wants to be in a position to make a play. By amortizing the costs of all the journalists he hired over a bigger market, he can achieve savings in terms of production while adding marginal readers and advertising.

He clearly sees himself as a smart entrepreneur making bold bets. I see a man on a wire, with millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs at stake.

Carr quotes a laid-off veteran saying page counts have been declining, but it’s worth noting that Tuesday’s edition of the Register had 72 pages. To put that in some perspective, The New York Times had 48 pages.

— Jack Shafer notices an awful lot of celebrity-children pieces in The New York Times Magazine, that come from “journalism’s gentler provinces, that expanse of lavender and honeybees,” which is one of several great lines in his piece, including “journalism isn’t a Montessori school” and “how many marshmallows a reader should be asked to swallow before he can ask for a barf bag.”

And the lede:

You didn’t have to be the son or daughter of somebody famous to be written about in the New York Times Magazine during 2013, but it helped. Last year the Times Magazine published stories about the offspring of David Mamet, Ted Kennedy, Mel Brooks, Stephen King, Mia Farrow and Woody Allen (and perhaps Frank Sinatra?), and Johnny Cash. Expanding the kinship circle to include blood relatives of famous people, we discover additional Times Magazine articles about Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter and Ben Affleck’s brother, and a Q&A with Mark Zuckerberg’s sister.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,