First, it appears that Scheer is about to lose his weekly Tuesday spot on the Times op-ed page after thirteen years. Sources at the paper tell me the decision has been made, but Scheer says he hasn't been told anything officially. He has heard the talk, however, and suggests the pressure to ax him comes from Publisher Jeff Johnson, who recently took over responsibility for the opinion side of the paper. The column often makes the Times website's most-emailed list, but Scheer tells me "I've been led to believe they are going to kill it....If I'm coming to the end they ought to bring me down there and explain why." He has been either on staff or a Times columnist for almost three decades.
Second, after a year of preparation Scheer and publisher Zuade Kaufman are launching a new Los Angeles-based web magazine, TruthDig, on Nov. 28. It will combine 2,500-word reported essays on issues by scholars and writers (e.g., UC Berkeley's Orville Schell on China, USC's Larry Gross on gays and religion, Marc Cooper on Venezuela and Hugo Chavez, Sam Harris on an "atheist manifesto") with hyperlinks to original sources, reading lists, blogs, video, podcasts and daily takes on the news. The name is inspired by archeology, Scheer says: "We assume there is some truth to be found on every issue, but you just have to dig for it." Barry Golson, Scheer's former editor at Playboy who also has edited TV Guide and Yahoo Internet Life, is the Senior Editor. They are advertising now for a Managing Editor. The job posting positions TruthDig "from a progressive perspective," but Scheer says it won't be all politics. Alice Waters, the founder of Berkeley's Chez Panisse restaurant, is contributing. The business plan is ad driven, with writers being paid about $1 a word plus expenses—a young writer has already been sent to the Middle East on a "dig."
Scheer is best known for his politics and books, and for editing Ramparts magazine in the 1960s, but he's been involved in Internet journalism for a while now. He is a former editor of the Online Journalism Review at USC, where he teaches in the Annenberg School.