It’s got to be a tough balancing act to maintain an online magazine that’s at once conspicuously progressive and reliably middle-brow while remaining open to analyzing, engaging and occasionally endorsing alternative ideas and offering in-depth coverage of unique topics. Jack Shafer was one of the people who carried the weight of Slate’s open and lively spirit in his shoulders, but now he’s been laid off. It’s quite a shame, especially given the praise Shafer just received, which could certainly have raised Slate’s image.
I don’t mind taking Plotz at his word that the decision to let Shafer go was “financial” in nature, but I hope everyone at Slate realizes that, without Shafer, it will surely be a worse magazine in multiple ways (needless to say, the same goes for June Thomas, also laid off, whose contributions to the Culture gabfest have been consistently charming and whose series on dentistry two years ago is a good example of Slate at its best). After all, one symptom of a dying institution is the subtle creep of enforced uniformity.
I just hope Shafer finds a new job as quickly as Dave Weigel did, and that he brings all the professionalism and vigor to it that he has to Slate over the years.