Ezra Klein knows by now that Vox.com will be very closely watched. Before launching the site, Klein was said to have been looking for an investment in the seven-figure range. That attracts interest. Klein left The Washington Post and recruited many of his fellow explanatory-journalism aces at The Post to join him at Vox. More interest. He has spoken evangelically about the shortcomings of journalism to explain the world. Yet more interest.
Yesterday Klein & Co. posted a bunch of articles on Vox.com. Check that, actually: In the words of Klein and a couple of colleagues, they launched the “beginning of our effort to build the vast repository of information that will make it possible for us to explain the news in real time.” Such flashes of insufferability bring yet more scrutiny, more motivation for the naysayers to poke at the new venture.
Here’s an example of such activity:
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) April 7, 2014
That tweet relates to an explainer of the Ukraine crisis executed by Max Fisher, formerly of The Post. The Ukraine piece rolls out in a series of cards — together, a “cardstack” — that are “inspired by the highlighters and index cards that some of us used in school to remember important information,” according to the intro from Klein & Co. Except Card No. 17 in Fisher’s thing looked as if it had undergone some stealth editing.
The Erik Wemple Blog asked Fisher about the evolution of Card No. 17, and he got right back to us: “Yes, indicating changes is going to be really important for us, since we want these to persist and evolve along with the story they’re explaining, while also being transparent with readers.” Vox.com appended a new card to the Ukraine stack “to reflect ongoing changes in the story.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Klein suggested that his new employer, which puts out brands such as SB Nation and the Verge, would give his crew an advantage they didn’t enjoy under a legacy property: “We were badly held back not just by the technology, but by the culture of journalism,” said Klein. In the first version of that New York Times story, Klein was directing those comments at The Post; in a subsequent one, he was speaking in general of “daily newspapers,” as the Huffington Post noted. Just how many “daily newspapers” has Klein worked for?
The Times story, as well as a fair amount of social media traffic, addresses Vox’s superior technology and design. As well it should: Vox.com is Adirondack-autumn gorgeous. It’s easy to browse, uncluttered, spatially flawless and as visually compelling as can be a site that’s selling policy explainers.
Even so, the Erik Wemple Blog would read this stuff if it came on an MS Word document. Vox.com’s explaining team is a scary array of talent, and we’ve already lost quite a bit of time on Klein’s thing about how politics makes us dumb, Sarah Kliff’s Obamacare explainer, Libby Nelson’s piece on low-income students and their college horizons, Fisher on Ukraine, Matthew Yglesias on why I wait in a queue to board Amtrak. GM scandal is next. Amid all the clicking, we’ve lost count of how many times some little message from launch sponsor GE has popped up — especially in those cardstacks. Someone’s got to pay for this “vast repository of information that will make it possible for us to explain the news in real time.”