Washington Post staffer leaves for Starbucks-backed media startup

Rajiv Chandrasekaran's longform storytelling venture is backed by the coffee giant

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 3.51.16 PM.png The Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran is the latest legacy media star to strike out on his own in the startup world, announcing on Thursday that he’ll move to Seattle to form a new media company partnered with Starbucks.

Chandrasekaran, a senior correspondent and associate editor at The Post, told CJR that the venture will produce longform “social-impact content” in the form of nonfiction documentaries.

Its initial focus will be on veterans’ issues, said Chandrasekaran, who covered national security at The Post.

“It’s pretty embryonic,” he added. 

The partnership stems from Chandrasekaran’s 2014 book about veterans, For Love of Country, which he co-authored with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. 

“This is not going to be PR or marketing work,” Chandrasekaran said. “This is Starbucks and Howard Schultz recognizing the power of storytelling and wanting to help contribute to the national understanding around a set of key issues.” The collaboration will leverage the coffee giant’s retail presence to help distribute and promote Chandrasekaran’s projects.

Despite the corporate partnership, “the plan is not to build a big production company,” Chandrasekaran said, declining to talk specifics on his venture’s working title. It will instead work with documentarians from film or television on specific projects. And he’ll look to bring on additional business partners — and branch out to different topics — in the future. 

“I will also be engaged in some of my own personal projects,” he added. “And for me, that will likely involve, over time, writing additional books and also my own involvement in the television space.”

Chandrasekaran joins a long list of legacy media journalists who’ve helped launch startups in recent years, including Ezra Klein, who left The Post for Vox.com, and Nate Silver, who departed The New York Times for FiveThirtyEight.com. Though Chandrasekaran’s venture might not generate the same sort of hype as some of his predecessors’, his journalistic bona fides will certainly bolster its output.

Chandrasekaran joined The Post’s metro staff in 1994, eventually serving as bureau chief in Baghdad and Cairo and penning books on the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The latter, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, was a finalist for a 2006 National Book Award.  

The Post has been terrific to me, a chance to pack dozen careers into one,” he said. “I feel like I’m leaving the best job in American newspaper journalism. It was a tough decision. But this felt, to me, like a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

David Uberti is a CJR staff writer and senior Delacorte fellow. Follow him on Twitter @DavidUberti. Tags: