Peter Kaplan joined the staff of the New York Observer in 1994, and since then his wry and awestruck tone has characterized the headlines, gags, and insights that fill the salmon paper’s pages. In an address to the staff today, Kaplan said he has felt lucky to have worked there for so long. “I had a little newspaper in New York City! You can’t beat that. No matter who you are,” he mused. “That’s as good as it gets. It’s better to have a little newspaper in New York City than a big newspaper in New York City. Because then you only have to report and write for the people you care about. And nobody else.”
Kaplan also voiced thoughts on how the digital era would affect the project of a print paper like the Observer. “We are somehow the embodiment of the New Yorker’s psyche,” he said. “And that is something that can exist in the physical paper or on the Web site or on a mobile device. It’s an idea.” That being said, he observed that though the tone is in some ways (but not many) similar, the Observer is the “diametric opposite” of blogs like Gawker, who take stories like Doree Shafrir’s brilliant “Hipster Grifter” article from last week and make them their own by adding gossip, unsubstantiated reporting, and opinion. “We don’t borrow information,” Kaplan said. “We create it.” David Carr already has a thoughtful account of Kaplan’s career over at the Times. As much as this seems like a bad omen for the Observer, Kaplan assured Carr that owner Jared Kushner is committed to “see[ing] this thing through.” Kaplan, who previously produced Charlie Rose and reported for the New York Times, says he wants his “third act” to involve helping figure out how to transition traditional journalism into the digital age. His replacement has not been named.