This is my last Moneybox column for Slate. After eight years and three months of crafting thrice-weekly, 800-word gems filled with wit, prose that approaches poetry, and deep insight into global business and economic issues, I’m moving to a new job as a columnist for Yahoo Finance.
When my first Moneybox column appeared on June 26, 2002, things were quite different. Many of my current Slatecolleagues were making snarky comments in their high-school A.P. classes. There was no Twitter and no Facebook, and Google was a private company. I spoke to editors and sources on a device called “the telephone.” My joints didn’t ache.
Longtime readers will note that I regard three instances of any phenomenon as grounds for a trend story. Longtime readers will also note that I occasionally try to mine personal experience for articles (like when I couldn’t find any chocolate in China). And so it’s tempting to turn this farewell letter into a statement about where the media have been and where they’re going. It’s no coincidence that my departure from the combined position at Slateand Newsweek I’ve occupied for the past three years comes the same week that my former Newsweek colleague Howard Fineman and the New York Times’ Peter Goodman are leaving for the Huffington Post.
What these and many other moves show is that the media continue to evolve at a really rapid clip, that the establishment media are losing their stranglehold on the employment of gray-haired dudes with receding hairlines, and that, even as fortysomethings lament the dying of an old order (gather round, children, and I’ll tell you tales about the glossy magazine world!), ambitious organizations are putting meaningful resources into our allegedly dying trade.
I’m not going to use this space to go much further. (Slateisn’t paying me anymore.) I won’t wow you with the highlights (the personal e-mail from Bill Gates!) or bore you with a list of greatest hits. (Slate’s editors will probably do that from time to time, as they did by recycling my anti-apple-picking screed this week.)
Rather, I’d like to use a couple of paragraphs to bid a fond farewell to my fellow Slate-sters and readers. The writers who held down this column before me handed over a great audience in the summer of 2002. Excellent editors, careful copy editors, and brilliant illustrators improved my work greatly. (If you want to see what my stuff looks like without the benefit of Slate-quality editing and design, check out one of my books.)Slatehas become one of those places that people rarely leave. That’s partly because the New York Times lacks the resources to poach Slatestaffers as it did in the old days. But it’s largely because few places offer the combination of freedom, reach, prestige, playfulness, collegiality, and the ability to experiment. Slatecombines many of the best qualities of the new media world and the old. It’s a place where good writing and writers still matter.
By far the most gratifying part of this job, however, has been the audience. Over the years, Slate’senthusiastic readers have collaborated on story ideas, offered encouragement, smacked me down when necessary, and flattered my ideas by discussing them in the Fray and in the comments. We’ve been through a lot together—a jobless recovery, a housing bubble, a financial meltdown, a deep recession, several redesigns, a change in ownership, a couple of books, and journeys to a dozen-odd countries and a couple of dozen states. I’ll miss you, and hope you’ll come find me at Yahoo Finance, where I hope to spend the next 8.25 years doing a job that never feels like work. My first column can be seen here.