In 2010, the Erik Wemple Blog was busy helping launch the ill-fated TBD.com under the roof of Allbritton Communications Co., which is much better known as the parent company of Politico. As we went about building a staff, we got some communications from Richard Prince, a contract writer for the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, whose tagline is “Diversifying the Face of American Journalism.” Prince, who formerly worked at The Post, invited me and TBD.com then-General Manager Jim Brady to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, where we had a lovely conversation rounded out by a grilling about the diversity of our staff.
We did our best to defend our hires, but Prince et alia delivered a nice little message: We’re watching every one of your people!
Now Ezra Klein is getting the treatment. Via Facebook message, Prince asked the former Post Wonkblog stalwart: “Ezra, this is Richard Prince, former Postie. I write about diversity issues in the news business, http://mije.org/richardprince Saw your list of hires. Is there any racial diversity?”
Klein responded: “Hi Richard. There is, but certainly not enough. That said, this is the beginning of our hiring process, not the end. I’d love to know your suggestions for the top few young candidates of color we should be talking to. We’re particularly looking right now for science, health, foreign policy, and data journalists, though I’m interested in names beyond these topics, too”
A fine response. Since leaving the Post for a new explanatory journalism project at Vox Media, Klein has hired many of his former Post colleagues, including multiplatform specialist Melissa Bell, reporters Brad Plumer, Sarah Kliff, Max Fisher, Dylan Matthews and Tim Lee. Also: Slate blogger Matthew Yglesias, Politico education reporter Libby Nelson, U.S. News staffer Danielle Kurtzleben and New Yorker Washington bureau staffer Andrew Prokop. Full staff list here.
There’s nothing exceptional about this outreach on Prince’s part. “I just routinely ask people this question whenever I see some hiring going on,” says Prince, who writes a column for Maynard titled “Richard Prince’s Journal-isms.” “Ask [Editor-in-Chief] John Harris how many times I’ve bugged him about Politico.” Prince is also known as one of the “Metro Seven,” a group of Post staffers who in 1972 filed an EEOC grievance against the paper. His history with journalism diversity has given him a seedbed of tipsters: A reader of his flagged the diversity scarcity among the hires for Klein’s Vox project.
Other current issues for Prince: The paucity of African American reporters covering the Ukraine-Russia clash (he says there are none) and whether CNN’s Don Lemon, who is African American, will fill the primetime slot to be vacated by Piers Morgan (don’t count on it).