Joe Klein-the writer made famous when he copped to being Anonymous, author of Primary Colors -is leaving The New Yorker for Time magazine. Mr. Klein’s hiring will be announced on Wednesday, Dec. 4, by Time managing editor Jim Kelly.
Mr. Klein, 56, told Off the Record on Dec. 3 that he will write a weekly national and international-affairs column for Time called “In the Arena,” named for Teddy Roosevelt’s speech at the Sorbonne in 1910. Of his new column’s title, Mr. Klein said: “It’s a quote that shows a fair amount of sympathy for people that are actually in the arena-as opposed to those who stand on the sidelines and criticize them.”
“I want to be able to write positively about politicians and criticize them,” Mr. Klein said. “I want to do both.”
Though an experienced newsweekly reporter, Mr. Klein acknowledged that some people may see his jump from writing features at The New Yorker to a Time column as “strange.” But he attributed his decision to a “desire to get back into the weekly mix and start having opinions again and start pissing people off and make other people happy.”
Mr. Klein said he’d deliberated making such a move for some time, ever since he stepped down as The New Yorker ‘s Washington correspondent following the 2000 Presidential campaign, unsure if he wanted to continue writing about politics. Mr. Klein continued to write features and profiles for The New Yorker -including a Dec. 2 profile of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry-but also took courses at Columbia University, trying to figure out what he “missed about journalism.” He said he determined that what he missed was writing a column, like his “Public Lives” column in Newsweek during the early 1990’s.
“Frankly, Sept. 11 changed a lot of things,” Mr. Klein said. “It certainly changed the political landscape and the issues landscape and it made the kind of stuff I had been doing all my life really important again. It didn’t seem all that important in November, December 2000.
“The other thing is this: I think there should be a statute of limitations on all of these things that we do. I always admired Michael Kinsley for bouncing around from gig to gig, from thing-to-thing. I was a columnist for 10 years and I thought it was time to stop. Now I’ve not been a columnist for six years and I think it’s time to resume.”
Mr. Klein, who has also written for Rolling Stone and New York , among others, has worked for The New Yorker since 1996. He was hired by then-editor Tina Brown to replace the departing Michael Kelly as the magazine’s Washington correspondent shortly after he was unmasked as the author of Primary Colors , the best-selling roman à clef about Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign.
Mr. Klein said the Kerry piece was his last as a staff writer for The New Yorker . The writer said his decision to leave The New Yorker was not motivated by the emergence of other political writers at the magazine, among them Nicholas Lemann, who wrote a pair of widely read profiles of George W. Bush and Al Gore during the 2000 Presidential campaign and succeeded Mr. Klein as the Washington correspondent.
“When I was a Washington correspondent, my feeling was, anybody that wants to write about politics, that’s fine,” Mr. Klein said. “So Nick did those two pieces of Bush and Gore because I was covering the campaign on a weekly basis. Over time, I was always happy when [ New Yorker correspondents] Elsa Walsh or Jane Mayer jumped in to do a piece.”
Mr. Klein said he plans to maintain a relationship with The New Yorker and possibly to do long features in the future.
New Yorker editor David Remnick called Mr. Klein a “marvelous, intelligent, ballsy political writer.”
“He’s incredibly passionate and hard-working,” Mr. Remnick said. “He’s also a friend. I think much of the reason that he’s making this move is that he’s got a yen for writing weekly reported commentary in a way that is better suited to Time rather than to us, but I will miss him all the same.”
Time ‘s courtship of Mr. Klein began this summer. Mr. Kelly, who first met Mr. Klein at Graydon Carter’s apartment in the mid-1980’s, said he received a call from a mutual friend telling him how much Mr. Klein missed writing each week. A few lunches followed-“We dated for a couple more months before we decided to get married,” Mr. Kelly said-before the two cemented the deal.
Mr. Kelly was thrilled to have Mr. Klein aboard.
“I thought that with Margaret Carlson, Michael Elliot and Joe Klein as our regular columnists, you have three great writers doing very different things,” Mr. Kelly said. “So I thought that we’d give it a try.”
Mr. Kelly said Mr. Klein’s first column will appear in the first week of January 2003.
Just two years ago, New York Daily News senior managing editor Arthur Browne stunned colleagues when he suddenly left the tabloid to become the founding editor at … PetPlace.com, an animal-care Web site.
Now the Daily News might be looking to bring him back.
According to sources familiar with the situation, News chairman and co-publisher Mort Zuckerman has expressed interest in Mr. Browne possibly returning to “a top-level position” at the paper.
“It’s like Giuliani and Bill Bratton,” one source said. “Mort’s like any boss. As soon as you leave, they start to like you. You’re more valuable to him once you’re gone.”
Mr. Browne, now gone from PetPlace.com and serving as a national enterprise editor with Bloomberg News, said, “You know, I’ve been gone from there for two and a half years. I’ve had a handful of conversations with Mort over that time. I haven’t asked for a job and he hasn’t offered.” Likewise, a spokesperson for the News and Mr. Zuckerman said, “Mr. Browne has neither solicited a job nor been offered one.”
But rumors have already begun to swirl on 33rd Street, where one Daily News source equated Mr. Browne’s potential return to “dropping an asteroid in a river.”
To some, the very idea that Mr. Zuckerman was even considering bringing back Mr. Browne-a 27-year veteran who left the paper not long after the publisher jettisoned editor Debby Krenek for Ed Kosner-was a shock. (Mr. Browne wound up working with Ms. Krenek at PetPlace.com.)
But Mr. Browne’s talent for motivating reporters is still remembered at the News . As one source who described Mr. Browne as a “hard-ass” conceded: “In the end, he knows what stories to put into the paper. That was always his gift.”