Frank Rich Leaves the Times After Three Decades

Is his move part of an exodus from legacy media to the web?

Veteran Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz raised a ruckus last fall when he made the move to Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast. “The end of an era,” wrote John Podhoretz of the news. But, of course, Kurtz wouldn’t be the last; in fact, he seems to have set a trend.

On Sunday, Tina Brown announced that Andrew Sullivan, proprietor of the pioneering political blog The Daily Dish, would soon be leaving The Atlantic’s website and bringing his insights—and, most likely, his 1.2 million unique readers a month—to The Daily Beast as well. Sullivan, in his own post about the decision, wrote:

The chance to be part of a whole new experiment in online and print journalism, in the Daily Beast and Newsweek adventure, is just too fascinating and exciting a challenge to pass up…. The Daily Beast, in a mere two years, has made its mark on the web, with 6 million unique visitors last month, and an eight-fold jump in ad revenue over the last year. It will give the Dish a whole new audience and potential for growth and innovation.

Similarly, just today, we heard the news that Frank Rich, who has been a columnist for The New York Times op-ed page since 1994 (and before that, the chief drama critic at the Times since 1980) will be moving to New York Magazine and Rich was quoted as saying, of New York editor in chief Adam Moss:

The role Adam has created for me at his revitalized New York Magazine will allow me to write with more reflection, variety, and space than is possible within the confines of a weekly newspaper column — and, for that matter, will allow me to stretch the definition of a magazine column.

So our question to our readers is this: What’s with the exodus from legacy media? A weekly column in The New York Times is seen by many in the business to be the pinnacle of success, and a measure of a writer’s massive influence. Ditto for The Washington Post and The Atlantic. Did Rich et al feel somehow constrained by the formats imposed on them, or perhaps by a lack of focus on the possibilities that the web offers for interaction and promotion?

Or was it more likely a simple matter of money? And if so, what do these investments on the part of The Daily Beast and mean for their ability to influence the cultural conversation?

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review. Tags: , , , ,