Issue 187,  published November 27, 2018

Leon Neyfakh is leaving Slate

Leon Neyfakh, the writer and narrator of Slate’s Slow Burn, one of the best narrative podcasts to come out this year, is leaving the company to start a new venture.

We still don’t know much about his new situation: through a Twitter thread, he noted that more details will be shared in the coming months. But we do know that he already has a new project lined up: Fiasco, which is described to be “about the past — why the history we half-remember played out the way it did, and what marks it left on the world we live in.” (In other words, it will feature the very same premise as Slow Burn, whose intellectual property will stay at Slate.) Two seasons are already in the pipeline: the first on Bush v. Gore, and the second on the Iran-Contra affair. They will be produced simultaneously.

Neyfakh also mentioned that Fiasco is being produced in partnership with “an innovative platform you’ll be hearing more about soon” — you get two guesses, but come on, this one is easy — and that they’re starting with just the one podcast for now, which will likely serve as a starting point for other projects to be produced further down the line.

To start the new venture, Neyfakh is bringing along producer Andrew Parsons and researcher Madeline Kaplan, who will now serve as assistant producer.

The birth of Neyfakh, Parsons, & Kaplan (or whatever the new venture is called) marks the latest expression of a developing trend: podcast talent going solo and building their own production studios. It seems to be a structure that’s becoming more central to the podcast ecosystem as we close out 2018. In my mind, the future will see more new podcast studios than new podcast networks, which befits the way the industry has changed in shape, scale, and tenor.

“I’m excited to be heading into these new waters, and going independent at a time when podcasting is in the middle of what feels like a creative inflection point for the medium,” Neyfakh wrote me. “There are going to be so many good podcasts coming out over the next few years! Andrew, Madeline, and I feel incredibly lucky to have a chance to make some of them, and to do so under our own shingle.”

Neyfakh’s departure is a real loss for Slate, which is already dealing with the recent departures of former editor-in-chief Julia Turner (replaced by Lowen Liu) and former EP of podcasts Steve Lickteig (replaced by Gabriel Roth). But the online magazine will continue to march on.

“We’re grateful to Leon and Andrew for their terrific work for Slate, and we’re excited to hear what they do next,” Roth told me. “Slow Burn will be back next year with a new host, and we’ve got more launches planned for 2019 that you’ll be hearing about soon.”

I’m taking bets on who the next host is going to be.