Ed Driscoll

More of the WaPo's Old Guard Shuffles Out

First “media watchdog” Kurtz, next liberal TV critic Tom Shales, according to the TBD Website, which apparently interviewed Shales on the topic:

Beneath the bravado in the Facebook posting is a fairly serious set of personal circumstances. The lump sum he took from the buyout is gone, Shales says Thursday night, on the phone from his house in McLean. “I either frittered it or the stock market ate it.” And his contract, Shales says, isn’t nearly as lucrative as his former salary.

“Now they have said they can’t afford me anymore, even though I’m making a lot less than when things were all ducky,” he says.

Is he negotiating with the paper?

“In a way, but then again not,” he says. “I mean, I’m gonna sign the document that says I’m going to be leaving on Dec. 31.”

Leaving the Post will be hard — not only has he been there since 1971, but there’s not exactly a booming newspaper business to absorb him should he get cut loose. “It’s scary, damn scary,” he says. “Plus I’m so heavily in debt and my house is underwater. Suddenly I’m a cross-section of the American public.”

For a certain section of that public in Washington, it’s jarring to imagine the Style section without Shales’ mug. “Readers and people outside the building say they can’t imagine this happening,” Shales says. Inside 1150 15th St. NW — an office he hasn’t worked in for years — he says, the management’s approach is less…driven by emotion.

“I’m just older than just about everyone in Style,” Shales says. “It’s just weird, but I’m the last of the institutional memory, at least in the Style section. I can’t imagine those people being sentimental about me leaving.”

Given the amount of water the Post has taken on in recent years, it’s apparently every man for the lifeboats at the paper these days. (Women, children, red Indians, media critics, spacemen, and a sort of idealized version of the complete Renaissance man first, of course.) As Michael Malone hinted in late October of 2008 and Kurtz sort of confirmed this week now that he’s longer at the Post, it seems pretty obvious that both the old and new guard at the Post knew that 2008 would be their last hurrah, and did everything possible to throw the election.

Still though, to give them their due, somebody at the Post still seems determined to actually report news, no matter how late it arrives.