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Journalism has become ground zero for the vocation crisis
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May 1, 2019, 2:58 p.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   May 1, 2019

Recode — one of the original prominent-journalists-fly-solo-and-start-their-own-thing news sites — is now officially part of Vox — one of the other original prominent-journalists-fly-solo-and-start-their-own-thing news sites.

Here are the sites’ two symbolic leaders, Ezra Klein and Kara Swisher:

The future of technology is a political story. The future of politics is a technological story. If we’re going to understand the changing world around us, the old coverage silos no longer make sense. And so we’re breaking them down. Recode and Vox are joining forces.

Recode has its roots in business journalism, reflecting an era when the story of technology was told through product releases and OS updates, management shifts and turnovers, earnings reports and investment decisions. But its soul has always been the deep expertise and sourcing of its staff, and the skeptical eye it cast on Silicon Valley long before skepticism became fashionable.

Vox has its soul in explanatory journalism, reflecting a recognition that the news is incomprehensible without context. But that context is, increasingly, the decisions made by a handful of companies on the left coast of the United States. To understand the news, you need to understand the firms, figures, and forces of Silicon Valley.

Samantha Oltman of BuzzFeed News has been named Recode’s new editor-in-chief.

Our Laura Hazard Owen (former managing editor of one-time competitor Gigaom) wrote about the shift when it was announced last November:

The archives will remain up and no layoffs will happen. The Journal’s Ben Mullin reports that Recode’s traffic is down 50 percent year-on-year, according to comScore (“The site attracted 1.36 million unique visitors in September 2018, a 50% decrease from its audience of 2.77 million unique visitors during the same period the year before”), but “the audience for Recode’s podcasts, newsletters, and conferences has increased over the last year, the Vox Media spokeswoman said.”

I think anyone who’s ever worked for a competing tech website will agree with me: Recode is great and it’s sort of sad to see it change. But tech blogging doesn’t feel the same as it used to and Recode needs to shift with that.

The two sites were birthed in parallel, so a union makes a kind of cosmic sense. As our This Week In Review scribe manqué Mark Coddington wrote back in 2014 when they were in their earliest stages:

Personality-driven subsites break away: Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg’s AllThingsD made its long-awaited separation from News Corp’s Dow Jones, whose banner the tech site has been operating under since it was founded in 2007. Mossberg said farewell at AllThingsD’s site on New Year’s Eve, then the pair relaunched as Re/code the next day. The New York Times has more of the details: The investment firm Windsor and NBCUniversal News Group are minority investors, and News Corp’s Wall Street Journal launched a replacement tech news site called WSJD.

Another personally driven brand within a news org may be on the move as well, as The Washington Post political blogger Ezra Klein was reported to be looking to start his own site elsewhere. Michael Calderone of The Huffington Post reported before the holidays that Klein was talking to people both inside and outside the paper about launching his own site, and two weeks later, The New York Times’ Ravi Somaiya reported that Klein’s proposal of an eight-figure site dedicated to explanatory journalism was turned down by The Post, so he’s planning on starting it with someone else.

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