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]

Comments

  1. Rafael says

    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.

  2. Wavin' Dave says

    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.

  3. Dan says

    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.

  4. William says

    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.

  5. crispy says

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

  6. says

    “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?

  7. Craig says

    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*

  8. Ryan says

    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.

  9. jake john says

    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..

  10. Anony6 says

    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.

  11. raul5050 says

    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.

  12. AG says

    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?

  13. JeffNYC says

    The more he describes Vox, the worse it sounds.

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

  14. Eugene says

    If the only issue Klein saw with Ambrosino’s articles was that they were “quite pointed and personal” – well, it’s quite telling.

  15. MickyFlip says

    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.

  16. Paul R says

    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.

  17. DoTell says

    @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.

  18. Jason Macbride says

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

  19. RayRay says

    ‘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.

  20. Tommy says

    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.

  21. Fenrox says

    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.

  22. Ryan says

    Mr. Klein is very well spoken and I believe him–at least for now–when he says Brandon wasn’t hired for clickbait. And I also think the gay community does itself no favors by so vociferously attacking a 23 year old who has clearly been warped by his years with the church. Let him write what he writes–and we can criticize it then, if we want.

  23. Drake says

    Ezra Klein should learn about the “Peter Principle”. It holds that persons rise to their highest level of INCOMPETENCE. I think that both Klein and Ambrosino have risen to their respective levels of INCOMPETENCE. Klein was a good writer for the Washignton Post, and should have stayed there. Greed and hubris only go so far.

  24. StevyD says

    Our forefathers never intended freedom of speech for this, especially when we are forced to hear/listen/read unpopular, controversial, minority and divergent viewpoints. It would be so much nicer for those of us with the correct mindset, if these unpopular ideas were kept hidden and not paraded around in our faces. What is the world coming to? I fear for our children.

  25. says

    “He is a young writer who we think has talent who’s going to receive a lot of editing and a lot of guidance.”

    So Ezra’s running a School?

    The “He’s young” defense truly amuses me. When I was his age I was a member of the Gay Activists Alliance.

  26. Drake says

    Message to Ezra Klein: We did not expect you to be grooming the next Ann Coulter. The really calls your judgment into question.

  27. bandanajack says

    this es a well crafted apologia, and boosts my respect for ezra as a nimble writer. it does nothing to assuage my concern about his editorial skills and direction. as has been mentioned several times, surely there were more talented writers available without his history and peculiar personality quirks, if not to say disorders.

    sb nation is a solid platform hosting many different blogs in the process of becoming more credible. some will succeed, i hope outsports is one of them, and some will fade into obscurity, without having risked more than chump change. vox’s failure will fall in the category of no harm/no foul/no lessons learned the hard way.

  28. Jim says

    I certainly respect Ezra Klein, and think he is very smart. However , this was not a well though out move. Lol, I kept read click bait as dickbait.

  29. says

    To Ehrenstein’s point, re: “the he’s young” defense – um…i was more aware, and more man, at 17 years old that this kapo quisling is today.

  30. anon says

    Gee, I wonder why today’s defense for this hire from Klein is so much different than yesterday’s? And, how much more will it change by tomorrow? On day one, Klein hadn’t read his work b4 hiring him. Today, he had read everything. By tomorrow, Klein will claim to have helped him write his previous work.

  31. Randy says

    “the same high standards as all Vox.com employees”

    Has any writer ever been fired?

  32. Urbane says

    “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”.

    Really? Were those conversations really what he needed to wrap his head around the outcry? Wow, not nearly as smart as I always thought he was.

  33. GayBot1138 says

    All gay people are required to think and feel and say the exact same things otherwise the gay revolution was all for naught. Exterminate! Exterminate!

  34. Standards says

    I gave Ambrosino a chance by reading his writings. He seems grossly uninformed, manifestly immature, and calculatedly contrarian.

    Klein acknowledges hiring Ambrosino without having read his work. Seems like an odd way to start up a first-rate news blog, but the mistake is Klein’s to make. I do admire his willingness to provide on-the-job training to ignorant young writers who’ve yet to find a legitimate voice.

    Continuing to read Ambrosino, however, is not time I intend to waste, nor a mistake I intend to repeat.

    Nor will I patronize (even with page views) a news blog that promotes his point of view. You have your standards, Ezra, and I gots mine.

  35. oncemorewithfeeling says

    Klein’s always been a jackass and now he’s a jackass with more power and a greater PR reach, which is only serving to allow more people to realize he’s a jackass.

    He’s not suited for what he’s set out to do in life and, the more he does it, the less will come of it for him.

    He’s not even worth the attention he’s getting now because it is extremely unlikely anybody will be talking about him as soon as this time next year.

  36. doug says

    new blog. clickbait. why is this such a surprise? He has his Little Man Coulter. Self-haters will click and enjoy.

  37. homogenius says

    Massive fail. Ezra’s response is too cute by half. First of all, Ezra is a product of the pop journalism branding that also allowed Brandon to incubate his self-serving, self-loathing tripe. Ezra has peddled his own pedegree into high visibility on Maher, MSNBC, and the internet.

    Vox didn’t just rent Brandon for a year–they rented his brand, too. It’s a package deal. If Brandon wants to change his brand, let him do the hard work of demonstrating he can grow as an objective and balanced writer in the milieu where he already functions.

    Let’s be clear about what the real issue is: Vox absolutely IS using Brandon as Click-bait and doing it at the expense of LGBT dignity and equality. Brandon is a self-invented little Quisling who deserves no quarter from any legitimate media source. Oh, wait….

  38. homogenius says

    Massive fail. Ezra’s response is too cute by half. First of all, Ezra is a product of the pop journalism branding that also allowed Brandon to incubate his self-serving, self-loathing tripe. Ezra has peddled his own pedegree into high visibility on Maher, MSNBC, and the internet.

    Vox didn’t just rent Brandon for a year–they rented his brand, too. It’s a package deal. If Brandon wants to change his brand, let him do the hard work of demonstrating he can grow as an objective and balanced writer in the milieu where he already functions.

    Let’s be clear about what the real issue is: Vox absolutely IS using Brandon as Click-bait and doing it at the expense of LGBT dignity and equality. Brandon is a self-invented little Quisling who deserves no quarter from any legitimate media source. Oh, wait….

  39. EchtKultig says

    I’m so sick of the BS, I can’t believe I’m bothering to post again.
    Klein knew EXACTLY what he was doing. His response is so well written, he probably wrote it a week ago. As I said in the prior thread, we’re the last “controversial minority” where you can get away with this garbage. Imagine if I’d hired a black writer who had written an article with the title along the lines of “25% of young black males are incarcerated – and thank goodness for that”. Of course that would never have happened. Or what about one from a Jewish writer: “Jews – yes we are that greedy. And greed is good.” So fine, whatever, blah blah blah Vox blah blah blah. Now we know about your stupid upcoming webcyst. Mr. Tina Brown wannabe pulled off a successful click baiting campaign. People who would not have otherwise have heard about Vox have heard about it. This controversy aside, it faced a huge uphill battle anyhow.
    All this stuff about the gay community being “fascists” is ridiculous, because the black and jewish communities would react just as vociferiously if not more so, to a similiar quisling concern troll. Given his background, maybe he really does think he “chose” to be gay, but in that case he belongs in therapy, not imposing that viewpoint on others. (A name like Ambrosino implies he was Catholic, but then he went to Liberty? Does’t matter: I’m convinced certain slices of the protestant/evangelical world have just as much of a problem with childhood sexual abuse as the catholic church: it’s just even more hushed up. AND, more likely to come from parents. I happen to know of a semi-prominent figure in the right wing echo chamber, whose children are utterly, completely estranged from him. Even though they are still evangelicals. There were rumors about the family years ago, about the father’s proclivities and the reason his daughter started having a drug abuse problem and ran away several times at a young age. And as I’ve previously noted, childhood abuse experiences is one thing that tends to lead people to have ridiculous and/or religiously dogmatic views of their own sexuality. Clearly, no mentally healthy person identifies as gay but says they chose to be that way.)

  40. JMC says

    This is suck backtracking. All publicity is not good publicity, just fire the guy already.

  41. jjose712 says

    GayBot1138: Of course not, but you need at least to thought before write.
    Ambrosino is a mediocre writer, and some of his works openly contradict other works writen by him.

    All about him scream attention seeker. It’s the same arguments bigots are telling us for decades with the difference (or not, because some of those bigots ended being gay themselves) that is a young gay man.

    He is not an expert writer but he is given a lot more oportunities than a lot of more deserving writers, and all it’s because angering people is profitable on internet.
    Maybe that’s good for business but that’s not good journalism at all

  42. Ricky says

    When Klein hires a 23-year-old holocaust denier – to give him a chance at “writing” – then and only then will I believe a single word coming out of his mouth – but he is not going to do that. Klein cares about the holocaust – and a host of other issues that affect him and those like him – he does not care about gay rights or gay equality – as clearly evidenced by this hire.

    I can easily do without the poseur that is Klein and his already trite endeavor – let Klein embrace Ambrosino – they more than deserve each other. Water seeks its own level – that has been the design of sewers since the time of the Romans.

  43. Robert M. says

    I used to have respect for Ezra Klein, not any more… @Ricky, you nailed it and I’ve got the perfect holocaust denier for him to hire, Mahmoud Amadinejad…

  44. Wilberforce says

    Standard procedure for the corporate media, using us as a distraction from their owners’ political and financial corruption. From the bigots given the stage on CNN and Fox and MSNBC, not to mention all of the old school networks, it’s worked for decades. And it’ll keep on working until the community choose their leaders for brains and competence instead of looks.

  45. Richard says

    Klein makes me regret having listened to his commentary on MSNBC. What’s next? Hiring a Klansman to discuss race relations?

  46. Tatts says

    “Contrarian clickbait at the expense of the struggle and discrimination that LGBT men and women face every day.
    That was never our intention.”

    …but I didn’t actually read any of his work before hiring him for this potentially high-profile job.

    I’m not sure which is worse–Klein’s admission yesterday that he hadn’t read this jerk’s work before hiring him, or this new delusional denial.

  47. Billy.elliott says

    Well, full disclosure : my crush on Ezra runs so deep that I can’t focus on what he says when I watch him cause I get lost looking at his lips . So I’m glad this was a post.
    Regarding the New hire, it’s a mixed bag. We can’t stamp out speech/voices just because of its contrarian nature. Though it may not be supportive of our collective plight, it’s the proof that we are a diverse and dynamic group…and not some blind monolithic gathering that follows ppl and issues like lemmings.
    My take is that some of his earlier writing was definitely as Ezra outlined. He felt he needed that notoriety to get exposure. (unfortunately ) Now that he’s under Ezra’ tutelage, he’ll no doubt soften his approach… Why? He’s sorta been validated by a prominent person in the industry, so no need to metaphorically speak so loudly to be heard…

  48. Reality says

    I’m 26 and knew exactly what I was doing professionally at age 23 – including ramifications for sloppiness and garbage that could come back and bite me. Brandon does not seem to have that basic understanding. I have lost respect for Ezra over this and won’t be visiting vox