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From AJR,   June/July 2011  issue

Why Would Someone Ax Jack Shafer?   

Slate lays off a topnotch media critic. Wed. August 24, 2011

By Rem Rieder
Rem Rieder (rrieder@ajr.umd.edu) is AJR's editor and senior vice president.      

What was David Plotz thinking?

Plotz, the editor of Slate, on Wednesday laid off a number of employees. One of them was Jack Shafer, his terrific media critic.

Sure, these are tough economic times, and tough times call for tough decisions. But why would you ax someone who is performing at such a high level?

Mark Lisheron's excellent AJR profile makes clear what is so special about Shafer. He knows his field superbly. He researches his columns thoroughly. And he is utterly uncompromising. Friend or foe, no one is safe if he or she screws up.

And his stuff is always so much fun to read unless you're in his sights. I'd speculate that Rupert Murdoch, for one, is not a huge fan.

Shafer routinely skewers the New York Times for what he sees as bogus trend stories. Yet Times Executive Editor Bill Keller made clear to Lisheron that he's a Shafer admirer.

Slate, which is owned by the Washington Post Co., has made its mark with smart, sophisticated, lively takes on relevant subjects. Shafer's work is precisely what it should be embracing, not shedding. Especially at a time when media coverage is such a hot-button issue.

Shafer will apparently continue as a Slate contributor, which is better than nothing.

But make no mistake, this is a truly befuddling and disappointing decision.