"Open to Offers"  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   October/November 2008

"Open to Offers"   

Online Exclusive Media critic Rachel Sklar plots her post-Huffington Post course.

By Lindsay Kalter
Lindsay Kalter (lindsay.kalter@gmail.com) is an Ann Arbor-based writer.      

"Oh, Sean [Hannity], I will miss your face on the giant office flat screens."

For the past two-and-a-half-years, Rachel Sklar has been living in a fast-paced whirl as a Huffington Post fixture. But sitting in the New York office at 10:00 p.m., she is reminded of a more subdued side of the job.

"I enjoy being at the office at this time of night, when there are only just a few people here, news shows on in the background," she says. "It's peaceful. That I will miss."

But Sklar, 35, (or, she says, 20-something in "low light"), didn't fall in love with her job at The Huffington Post for the after-hours lulls. One of the things she will miss most, she says, is the adrenaline rush that comes with the constant demand to produce. As of November 7, Sklar, senior contributing editor for the Huffington Post and writer and editor of the Web site's blog "Eat the Press," will be parting ways with her all-consuming gig to pursue other projects.

"While I've loved it, it's become sort of self-indulgent to do it," she says. "Just the daily requirement of getting something up, as opposed to something deeper, something meatier. I have other muscles that are completely atrophying."

Sklar, who has made frequent appearances as an analyst on CNN and MSNBC, hasn't nailed down job plans yet, but she's got plenty to keep her busy. She wants to finish her comedic cultural identity book, "Jew-ish," and already has an idea for another that is "not a media politics book." She is also hoping to resurrect an old screenplay she worked on years ago.

"I'm open to offers I've gotten. People have reached out," she says. Given the state of the economy, she adds, "It's not the greatest time to be untethered to an employer, but it's an OK time to be open to things."

Sklar's decision to leave The Huffington Post sparked Internet rumors about her reasons for quitting, which Sklar denies. Gawker.com speculated that her departure might be linked to what it said was Arianna Huffington's "tendency to use staffers to perform menial personal chores" and "to an internal culture of nasty screaming and name-calling."

Sklar also says there's no truth to speculation that her exit was connected to an editorial disagreement in August between Sklar and Huffington. Sklar wrote a piece for "Eat the Press" ("Maddow in, Abrams Out, as MSNBC Moves Decisively to the Left") that Huffington would not allow her to post on the site because it was not "congruent with HuffPost's editorial position against the media's penchant for viewing everything through a left/right prism." Jim Romenesko ultimately posted the piece on his widely read media blog on poynter.org.

"I understood the reasoning [as to why Huffington Post rejected the piece]," Sklar says. "I've been granted almost ridiculous freedom with 'Eat the Press.' I fully understood where she was coming from."

Sklar says that her experience at The Huffington Post has been an extremely positive one, and that she will be "forever grateful" to Huffington herself.

"Have I gotten every single thing I've wanted? No. Who has?" she says. "Are you going to be delighted and ecstatic every single day? No. But I've been delighted and ecstatic most days. I've had a really great time here."

Huffington, who was traveling and could not be reached for comment, sent an e-mail to AJR wishing Sklar the "best of luck with the book and with all of her future endeavors."

Aside from the projects Sklar will be working on, the former corporate lawyer says she would like to remain in the news business. She's always considered herself a writer, she says, whether she was passing notes in class or discovering the wonders of e-mail in her first year of law school.

"I'm going to stay in the business if the business will have me," Sklar says. "It's a nice community to be a part of."

Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's media writer, says Sklar has set herself apart from other media critics with her "humor and pop culture sensibility."

"While everyone in this racket focuses on the big anchors and cable hosts, Rachel has specialized in analyzing the impact of the likes of 'Saturday Night Live' and Jon Stewart," he says. "And in light of the way the campaign unfolded, she was obviously onto something."

Sklar says regardless of where she ends up, she plans to keep in touch with the people she's met during her Huffington Post run.

"It's going to be a hard place to not come into every day. I have no doubt that I'll continue to IM furiously with my pals," she says. "As someone who is one of the longest employees [of The Huffington Post] I really can't express enough how much I've loved it."



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