I’m writing today with some bittersweet news. Our colleague, and dear friend, Ta-Nehisi Coates is stepping down as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. As he has explained to me — and as he’s written in the recent past — the last few years for him have been years of significant changes. He’s told me that he would like to take some time to reflect on these changes, and to figure out the best path forward, both as a person and as a writer.
It should go without saying – but I will say it anyway – that Ta-Nehisi will forever be a member of The Atlantic family, and he will of course continue to mentor and coach many of our up-and-coming young journalists. But this is still something of a parting. We’ve been friends for a long while, though, and I do understand his desire for change, and for a period of contemplation.
I called this a bittersweet moment. But what is the sweet part? For starters, Ta-Nehisi’s extraordinary record of achievement at The Atlantic. Any fair-minded assessment of The Atlantic’s long history would include Ta-Nehisi on the list of its most significant contributors. He joined us in 2008, and soon began experimenting, semi-obscurely, with a then-new form of online expression (young readers of this memo should ask Jim Fallows to explain “blogging” to them). Today, Ta-Nehisi is one of America’s most celebrated writers. His cover stories, such as “The Case for Reparations” and “The Black Family in the Age of Incarceration” have changed the way our country thinks about itself. And his writing across the past decade about Barack Obama and his meaning will be studied by presidential historians a century from now.
Throughout Ta-Nehisi’s rise to the highest heights of journalism, he has been a selfless member of our team, an embodiment of this institution’s spirit of generosity. He has also been a great friend to David, Bob, and me. And I know that we will be able to continue to count on him for advice, and for a steady supply of writer recommendations and story ideas.
I’m hoping, of course, that Ta-Nehisi will make journalism for us again soon. I’ve promised him that I won’t lobby excessively on the subject, at least until after Labor Day. For now, he should know that we are grateful for his work, grateful for his contributions to the discourse, and grateful for his friendship. We will gather soon – I’m hoping in early September – to toast his decade of achievement. We will deploy (for once) better-than-average French wine at this toast (he says he would be satisfied with cheap beer, but I’m not sure I believe him).
There is so much more to say about Ta-Nehisi’s contributions to The Atlantic, and I, and others, will share more thoughts when we gather. For now, though, allow me to simply wish my old friend well.