Slate, where I began my first journalism internship almost exactly three years ago, laid off four staff members yesterday: Jack Shafer, Tim Noah, June Thomas and Juliet Lapidos. While I worked with all four of them in some capacity during my time at Slate, I spent the most time with Shafer.
There’s certainly a lot to say about him (see here, here and here), but I’m not going to say any of that. I met Shafer as a 21-year-old at her first journalism internship in the big, scary city of Washington, D.C., during the 2008 presidential election. I was young, impressionable. And an impression he certainly did make.
A few days after I started, he invited me for coffee by asking, “Do your parents let you drink coffee?”
They did, even though I didn’t. He bought me tea instead. At Slate in those days (god, how old do I sound?), it was all about coffee, Chop’t salads and the occasional Krispy Kreme box brought in by John Dickerson after a long stretch on the campaign trail.
Shafer and I worked together on a few projects that usually involved me doing some sort of LexisNexis research on an obscure term, but it was his presence in editorial meetings that I remember most. Never one to give up without a fight and always willing to play devil’s advocate, he’s the kind of guy you need in a newsroom full of opinionated journalists. I think it was even him who dubbed me Slate’s “office hipster” during one.
After I completed my internship and went back to Missouri to finish school, I would occasionally send him links to stories I thought he’d be interested in. One such story was about a New York Times piece on how teenagers were hugging to say hello. Sounded to me like one of Shafer’s “bonus trend” stories, so I sent it to him.
“Wouldn’t it be better if kids slugged each other?! Good to know that I’ve infected your mind,” he replied.
And I’m definitely glad he did.