Life is coming full circle for best-selling author Michael Schaffer. “The first story I wrote at Washington City Paper, I was living with my parents at the time,” he says. “I think I’ll be staying with them again during this transition, although I better ask them first.”
The 36-year-old D.C. native and City Paper alum, currently living in Philadelphia, was named the paper’s new editor on Monday. (Schaffer and his family will be moving back to the D.C. area as soon as he can find a place, or gets sick of riding Megabus, or whichever comes first.)
“I’m sort of over the moon right now,” Schaffer tells City Desk. “City Paper was the first job I ever had and the most fun I’ve ever had at a job. I cherish the place.”
His appointment plugs a nagging gap at the top of the masthead left by former editor Erik Wemple‘s departure in March.
Schaffer, who previously worked as a reporter and senior editor at the paper from 1997 to 2000 (before slumming it at U.S. News & World Report and, later, the Philadelphia Inquirer), met with editorial staffers over lunch last week, a powwow he described as encouraging.
Schaffer says one early priority will be filling some of the holes caused by a spate of previously announced staff departures, including several City Paper stalwarts, such as managing editor Andrew Beaujon, senior writer Jason Cherkis and Loose Lips columnist Mike DeBonis.
“A lot of really good people,” Schaffer says. “But I also see it as an opportunity to bring on board some people who I feel comfortable with, and who the staff feel comfortable with … who have strengths that I might not have.”
In accepting the post, Schaffer will be taking the reins of an almost entirely different beast than the one he left a decade ago. But he’s just fine with that.
“In my life, I tend to not believe in going back,” Schaffer says. “One of the things that is most exciting to me about it is, even though it is still Washington City Paper and some things are the same, a lot is really different and it’s a very different organization that I’m taking over. It’s a multi-platform media organization. I’m not one of these nostaglic people who’s trapped in the Why Can’t Everything Be Just Like It Was in 1984 kind of mentality. I’m really keen on making the paper, as well as the web site, as excellent as they can be.”
Herewith, the official press release from company headquarters:
Washington City Paper Welcomes Noted Journalist Home As Editor
(April 26, 2010, Washington, DC) – Michael Schaffer, a DC native, best-selling author, and an editor and writer whose assignments have taken him from Afghanistan to Adams Morgan, has been named editor of the Washington City Paper.
City Paper Publisher Amy Austin, in announcing Schaffer’s appointment, called attention to his previous experience in Washington, including three and a half years at the City Paper as a reporter and senior editor from 1997 to 2000.
“Michael honed his journalistic talent at City Paper and then went on to further develop his skills at US News & World Report and the Philadelphia Inquirer,” Austin said. “We are so pleased to welcome him home as our editor.”
As editor, Schaffer will have overall responsibility for the content of the Washington City Paper, one of the nation’s best known urban weeklies, and its website. The City Paper was founded in 1981 as an alternative to the traditional press. It focuses its coverage on life and politics in the nation’s capital.
Last year, Schaffer’s first book, “One Nation Under Dog,” a critically acclaimed examination of America’s mania for pets, was published by Henry Holt & Co. Schaffer spent two years on the project, which combines investigative reporting, narrative journalism, and cultural history.
Previously, Schaffer spent four years as a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition to coverage of local politics and corruption, he covered the 2004 Presidential election and spent time in Iraq. Knight-Ridder Newspapers recognized his Iraq coverage with the James K. Batten Excellence Award in 2003
Schaffer joined the Inquirer from US News, where he served on the national and world news staff from 2000 to 2002. He was dispatched to Pakistan for the fall of 2001, and also reported from a dozen US states, covering the 2000 Florida recount, poverty issues, and scandals in the Catholic Church.
Schaffer’s freelance work has appeared in Slate, The New Republic, The Daily Beast, The Washington Monthly, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, New York Press, Obituary Magazine, Philadelphia, and Men’s Journal.
“I grew up reading City Paper, and later got my first job in journalism there,” Schaffer said. “Back then, we printed a paper weekly; now, we also update a website 24/7. I’m incredibly excited about tackling the new media landscape while using the values I learned here at the start of my career: Curiosity, fearlessness, humor, and a deep knowledge of the city we call home.”
Washington City Paper is one of six of America’s leading urban weeklies owned by CL Inc. The group also includes the Chicago Reader, Creative Loafing Atlanta, Creative Loafing Tampa, Creative Loafing Charlotte, and Creative Loafing Sarasota. CL Inc.’s holdings also include websites associated with those newspaper properties, the Straight Dope (straightdope.com) and Listen.com sites, and the Digital Advertising Network.
Photo by Ryan Donnell