Twenty-seven-year-old Ezra Klein, who the New York Times referred to as a “multiplatform superman of blogging-twittering-column writing,” unleashed a re-design of his Washington Post blog over the weekend, completing his metamorphosis from a multitasking caterpillar into an equally busy boss-man butterfly. At what’s now officially dubbed Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog, he will oversee a staff of three newly hired journalists, Brad Plumer, Suzy Khimm, and Sarah Kliff, who will report on the environment, the budget process, and health care, respectively. “Part of the theory behind the site is to give me more time to hit the ball a little further,” he said in an interview.
Klein’s clique, both personally and professionally, includes other young political reporters like Dave Weigel, who writes the Weigel blog for Slate, and Matthew Yglesias, who does the heavy-lifting at a Think Progress blog called — what else — Yglesias. But by hiring a staff, Klein moves into a slightly more ambitious realm, pioneered by Andrew Ross Sorkin at DealBook, and Andrew Sullivan of The Dish, both of which operate under the guidance of a proven brand-name reporter.
“I don’t know if I would’ve had the courage to do it if there weren’t many others like Sullivan and Sorkin who have built out other operations,” Klein said. “But it came out of frustrations I saw in my own work, not so much in an opportunistic desire to imitate what other people were doing. As I’ve professionalized a bit, I’ve learned about how much of what looks right to me turns out to be wrong, and so I’ve considerably narrowed my focus.” At the start, he said, he was “a pure amateur political pundit” who got things like the Iraq war “horribly wrong.”
He believes it’s a pattern that’s likely to continue among bloggers. “When a sector is young and new and populated by amateurs, you see a lot of one-person shops. Eventually, you just become an organization,” he said. “We’re seeing a very old pattern repeat itself in a new medium. Which isn’t to say that individuals can’t have their brands, but the better you end up doing, the more there ends up being to do.” (As a side note, the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait is leaving his eponymous blog behind to join Daily Intel next week.)
As for the branding, Klein has consciously stuck with the word “wonk,” which he also utilizes in his morning policy e-mail Wonkbook, “in an effort to denote that we’re doing something a lot different by covering Washington through a policy lens,” he said. “If you come to the site, that’s what you’re going to get: a look proudly and thoroughly infused with the idea that the basic work of Washington is policy, and that doesn’t only affect people’s lives, but it affects elections. There’s no better way to convey that than right in the title.”
As for the word’s negative connotation — “a boring nerd who likes charts,” as Klein puts it — there’s no fighting it. “The reality is that I’m a boring nerd who likes charts,” he said.