What's behind the exodus of name-brand talent from what was once the most prestigious job in journalism
Is the New York Times losing its cachet? A slew of high-profile departures from what was once the most prestigious address in journalism seems to be signaling something more than just old-fashioned poaching. (Clockwise from left to right: Brian Stelter, Howard Beck, Megan Liberman, Rick Berke, Nate Silver, Matt Bai, Lisa Tozzi and David Pogue)
The loss of consumer electronics star David Pogue to Yahoo, the exit of data-cruncher Nate Silver to ESPN and this week the leap of bright young media star Brian Stelter to join CNN are among the most prominent of a litany of other departures to Buzzfeed, Yahoo, ESPN, Politico and even — horrors — Bleacher Report.
“Frank Rich's departure from the NYT a few years ago was a shock but signaled the beginning of the exodus to the digital world, to television, and away from print,” Mary Murphy, a senior lecturer at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, who has worked in both print and television journalism, told TheWrap.
“The savvy reporters, or those who have impressive credentials, can see the future and have taken risks to jump into the future — BuzzFeed, Yahoo, TheWrap etc,” she added.
Also read: Nate Silver Leaves New York Times for ESPN
That certainly was the case for Pogue, who wrote on his blog that part of Yahoo's allure was new CEO Marissa Mayer's “‘try stuff’ atmosphere.”
“People can really make a difference there,” he added. “And for people who like to create cool new stuff — I'm among them — working to build the new Yahoo is a very attractive proposition,” he wrote.
Rick Berke, a 30-year veteran of the Times, left to become executive editor of Politico, tweeting that the lure of something new proved overwhelming: “Tks everyone for the good wishes. Will always root for NYT — where I've been since Reagan years — but SO excited about POLITICO adventure.”
It seems that even the Times recognizes that there is more competition to keep the talent that once upon a time would have stayed for decades.
“It's inevitable that some very good people might be recruited to other opportunities in what has become a crowded and complicated media marketplace,” a spokeswoman for NYT told TheWrap. She added: “At the same time, we are still hiring great new talent – Jonathan Martin and Jason Horowitz, among them — and Jill Abramson remains committed to ensuring that our newsroom has the best and strongest mix of journalistic talent.”
Among the more unexpected departures of late from the Times are:
>> NYT Deputy news editor Megan Liberman, left to become Yahoo News’ editor in chief
>> Political reporter Jeff Zeleny left to ABC news in February, followed the next day by fellow reporter Susan Saulny
>> Sports writer Howard Beck moved to the Bleacher Report, owned by Turner
>> Chief political correspondent Matt Bai left to Yahoo to be a national political columnist
>> Special sections and development editor Alice DuBois landed at BuzzFeed, where she is product lead for editorial tools
>> Lisa Tozzi, a former Times editor, is now the news director BuzzFeed.
But thus far the Times has kept their Dealbook star Andrew Ross Sorkin (pictured left), at least partially by allowing him to pursue a second career as a Squawk Box anchor on CNBC.
Others have pointed out that a cash-tight New York Times may not have the budget to compete with the likes of a monster moneymaker like ESPN or a newly-funded site like Buzzfeed, which raised $20 million in venture capital this year alone.
“No one wants to leave print, but then no one wants to be the last on the deck of the Titanic either,” Murphy, who still writes for New York Post, said. “We jump because we must– print has to catch up with the migration.”
Here's a selection of former NYT staffers’ good-bye tweets:
– Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight) July 22, 2013
Tks everyone for the good wishes. Will always root for NYT — where I've been since Reagan years — but SO excited about POLITICO adventure.
– rickberke (@rickberke) October 24, 2013
– MattBai (@MattBai) November 12, 2013
I've been at the @nytimes since college so it's surreal to be leaving. I've learned everything here. To my colleagues: thank you.
– Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 12, 2013