Brandon Ambrosino | Ezra Klein | News

Ezra Klein Defends Hiring of Gay Contrarian: 'Give Brandon a Chance'

In a Facebook post this morning, Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of Vox.com, responded to the growing anger over his hiring of Brandon Ambrosino.

Writes Klein: Klein

Over the past 48 hours I’ve spoken to a lot folks in the LGBT community to better understand the strong, negative reaction to my hiring of Brandon Ambrosino. People felt Brandon had made his name writing sloppy pieces that were empathetic towards homophobes but relentlessly critical of the gay community. They believe we were sending a signal about Vox’s approach to LGBT issues: Contrarian clickbait at the expense of the struggle and discrimination that LGBT men and women face every day.

That was never our intention. Our approach to LGBT stories will be the same as our approach to all other issues: We want people to read us because we do the best job tracking and explaining the news, not because we do the best job shocking people. We want to inform our readers — not annoy them. Our kind of clickbait tends towards beautiful data visualizations, not frontal assaults on causes we believe in and people we admire.

Brandon isn’t our LGBT correspondent. He’s not even the only LGBT employee of Vox.com. He is a young writer who we think has talent who’s going to receive a lot of editing and a lot of guidance.

Brandon applied for the news-writing fellowship, a one-year position focused on helping inexperienced writers develop aggregation and reportorial skills. Contrary to some garbled reports, before hiring Brandon I read a lot of his previous work. Brandon’s past writing was often quite pointed and personal, and not a fit for Vox — and I told him so. The writing fellowship requires a very different approach.

But something that often happens to young freelance writers on the Internet is that they end up writing reams of their most controversial opinions before they ever get a chance to do basic reporting or benefit from a routine relationship with an editor. So as part of Brandon's writing test, I asked him to do eight news articles and two explainers -- more than 5,000 words of original content, in all. He needed more editing, training and direction. But he showed himself a strong, fast writer who really wanted to learn. And that training is what the fellowship is there for.

I could’ve, and should’ve, handled this hire a lot better. But I would ask people to give Brandon a chance. He’ll be held to the same high standards as all Vox.com employees, and I believe he’ll meet them.

Previously...
Anger Grows at Ezra Klein for Hiring Gay Writer Who Fuels the Animus of Anti-Gay Conservatives [tlrd]

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Comments

  1. Well after this I have no interest in Vox.com. Hopefully Vox Media and its verticals SB Nation / The Verge will rein in this nonsense.

    Posted by: Rafael | Mar 14, 2014 12:11:30 PM


  2. WOW! I have a journalist husband, trained to be balanced, always fair. Cyberspace has made this skill more rare, always seeking fodder.
    They are just words on a page, after all, sometimes designed to provoke.
    The editor's voice, notions and procedures seem very solid, very true.
    Now, let the reporter write. We'll read. And react.
    Very cooly.

    Posted by: Wavin' Dave | Mar 14, 2014 12:12:14 PM


  3. Meh, I think I'm ready to get over the anger at this point, assuming that Brandon focuses more on evidence-based pieces rather than click-bait. He is young, and maybe he'll improve.

    Posted by: Dan | Mar 14, 2014 12:17:07 PM


  4. This is actually a really well-crafted, and reasonable, response to the indignation about his hiring. While I have zero personal interest in reading anything Ambrosino writes, the hire seems to have some merit beyond being contrarian and controversial.

    Posted by: William | Mar 14, 2014 12:19:54 PM


  5. To be fair, a fellowship is like one step above an internship. He'll be eating Ramen for the next year.

    Posted by: crispy | Mar 14, 2014 12:20:29 PM


  6. "Contrarian clickbait" still pretty much defines what I expect from Vox.com. The idea that Vox.com will teach its Fellows "aggregation skills" leaves me even more suspicious. Does Vox.com actually have an LGBT correspondent?

    Posted by: David Groff | Mar 14, 2014 12:20:47 PM


  7. So it is not so much that he will be writing for Vox, but rather mentoring and training the young freelancers in writing such as how to write attacks upon the LGBT community that make you sound nice and rational but give cover to the vicious lies the right wind uses against us. Got it. That makes it SOOOOO much better. *eye roll*

    Posted by: Craig | Mar 14, 2014 12:21:00 PM


  8. A male Camille Paglia without the education. Sounds like a winner.

    Posted by: Frank | Mar 14, 2014 12:23:29 PM


  9. There are a almost infinitely more people more deserving of an opportunity like this than someone who has attacked and demeaned an entire community in the worst of possible ways.

    There is simply NO EXCUSE for this hire. It cannot possibly be merited based on past work, and the best this hire could represent is failing upwards. Surely Ezra Klein could have found one recent graduate who showed promising work on their college newspaper or someone who had worked at a local or regional paper and for a couple years and showed great promise for a more national outlet.

    Surely Ezra Klein could have found almost anyone, gay or straight, who has demonstrated a fairer approach to writing, as well as more wisdom and integrity.

    Surely.

    This is damage control at its worst -- simply not believable.

    May Vox lose millions and millions and fall apart at the seams in a matter of months.

    Posted by: Ryan | Mar 14, 2014 12:23:35 PM


  10. something tells me there were plenty of other applicants out there who could do the work just as quick and thoroughly as this hack, but do so without using his own self hatred as a jumping off point..

    Posted by: jake john | Mar 14, 2014 12:25:28 PM


  11. So I guess it's okay to hire bigoted writers, just so long as they don't write on the topics of their prejudice....because the lenses we look through that form our prejudices never color other aspects of our world view.

    sure...

    And make no mistake, Ambrosino is a bigot. He doesn't get a pass because he's one of the gays.

    Posted by: Anony6 | Mar 14, 2014 12:27:58 PM


  12. Klein has ruined the goose before he ever got it into the oven. VOX is dead.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Mar 14, 2014 12:29:35 PM


  13. So one Borderline Personality is defending another??? Cue the surprise it's all about money as always...

    Posted by: styler | Mar 14, 2014 12:30:13 PM


  14. I am a huge Ezra fan BUT I will not give Brandon a chance. The guy is a self loathing homophobe.

    Even as gays many of us are so desperate to be "reasonable" about bigotry and self loathing.

    Many of you would not be so tolerant if this were a black or Latin person with a similar history of writing (not to mention appearing on FIXED NEWS) negative story about blacks or Latins. You would wondering why in the hell would a magazine hire an idiot like that.

    Of all the folks Ezra could hire he hires this clown?

    I will not give him a chance.

    Posted by: raul5050 | Mar 14, 2014 12:35:44 PM


  15. Why are you gay progtards so predictable? Any time there's a chance to display an ounce of tolerance or grace, you decide to confirm the stereotype of being hateful, intolerant, closed-minded fascists?

    Posted by: AG | Mar 14, 2014 12:35:46 PM


  16. So they hired him as some sort of LGBT writing therapy?

    Posted by: NotSafeForWork | Mar 14, 2014 12:38:43 PM


  17. The more he describes Vox, the worse it sounds.

    Do we really need another "news aggregator" with pompous opinion pieces?

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Mar 14, 2014 12:52:34 PM


  18. If the only issue Klein saw with Ambrosino's articles was that they were "quite pointed and personal" - well, it's quite telling.

    Posted by: Eugene | Mar 14, 2014 12:56:19 PM


  19. An intriguing response. I'm not familiar with Ezra Klein's work. I only knew him through his guest appearances on Bill Maher's show. However, maybe Ezra truly saw something that is difficult to describe that made him want to give Mr. Ambrosino a chance. Who knows? Maybe it could change Mr. Ambrosino's views about us? Time will tell. But I personally will defer to Mr. Klein's decision.

    Posted by: MickyFlip | Mar 14, 2014 12:59:36 PM


  20. Come on. This isn't going to kill Vox. It's a poor judgment call, but of interest to a small slice of their potential readers.

    What will kill Vox is that Ezra Klein isn't a household name, largely because he's hard to assess and makes some pretty big mistakes. Obviously he made this hire because Brandon came with a reputation (and, likely, a recommendation from a pal of Ezra's), and indeed--it's generated coverage for the new news source. It's just hard to believe that most people (gay or straight) will care one way or another. I don't, and much less because of Brandon than because this reflects poor management and/or a tabloid-like approach.

    Posted by: Paul R | Mar 14, 2014 1:00:50 PM


  21. @AG
    "gay progtards", "confirm the stereotype of being hateful, intolerant, closed-minded fascists?"

    Grace and Tolerance is something you will NEVER understand and you are the last person to tell the gay's about it.

    Posted by: DoTell | Mar 14, 2014 1:01:50 PM


  22. I've read some of Brandon's stuff. Hopefully, like wine, he will get better with age.

    Posted by: Jason Macbride | Mar 14, 2014 1:22:02 PM


  23. 'Contrarian clickbait at the expense of the struggle and discrimination that LGBT men and women face every day.'

    That's the power of voices raised in sincerity, with passion, reason and eloquence. Boom!, Eugene, Ricky, loki, J and all the others that spoke up yesterday were heard loud and clear. Powerful words that speak to truth and resonate with sincerity and care for all their fellow strugglers. Hard to argue against when presented like you guys did. Bravo & Thank you!

    If that's what detractors and opponents to equality want to paint as fascists and intolerant they'll continue to make themselves look ridiculous. Millennials aren't fooled in the least. Young conservatives aren't buying it. No generation is any longer.

    Posted by: RayRay | Mar 14, 2014 1:36:06 PM


  24. So if this guy is basically a young intern who is "eager to learn" then why was he being given large, front-page articles by the Atlantic Monthly and The New Republic? I don't know any wet-behind-the ears interns who get gigs like that.

    What is happening is that he is marketing himself as a gay iconoclast. He espouses antigay views but does so behind a shield of gayness. The Right clicks on his pieces because it agrees with him and is delighted to see a homo validate their views. The left clicks on his pieces because they are infuriated. And the media love the whole spectacle of an antigay gay. Now Klein is trying to walk all this back, claiming that this is just a nice young lad who wants to learn. Bullsh*t.

    Posted by: Tommy | Mar 14, 2014 1:39:15 PM


  25. Total BS, people are allowed to get mad at Erza and VOX for this. You know, part of being a gay person in this time is deciding when you have had enough of the BS that keeps gay people down. So yeah in the 90's I could give a crap.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Mar 14, 2014 1:44:55 PM


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