Media critic Kurtz quits Post for Daily Beast

Unexpected move called ‘jaw-dropper’

It is a seismic shift, at least throughout the narrow landscape of press insiders. Howard Kurtz, the longtime dean of print media critics, has left his throne at The Washington Post to become Washington bureau chief of the Daily Beast, an online publication that bears the motto “Read this, skip that.”

Mr. Kurtz, a 29-year veteran of The Post and author of five books, will cover media, politics and the often combustible intersection of the two. The new match appears to be a happy one, indeed.

“I have great respect for Howard as a journalist and news-breaker, but I admire him most of all for his understanding of media and politics as the story of our era,” said Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of the Daily Beast, which she founded two years ago Tuesday. “He is that rare reporter with a metabolism that outpaces the frenetic subjects he covers.”

Mr. Kurtz, who also is host of a news-analysis program on CNN, will serve as “a driving force” for the publication’s upcoming midterm election coverage.

“I’ve wanted to work with Tina Brown forever — well, for a long time — and I’m incredibly impressed by the energy and creativity of the Daily Beast staff. After a lifetime in newspapers, I’m ready for the challenge of fast-paced online journalism,” Mr. Kurtz said.

“Not many media stories surprise me, but this one’s a jaw-dropper,” said TBD.com general manager and former washingtonpost.com executive editor Jim Brady in a Tweet once the news went public Tuesday afternoon.

Though the Daily Beast has much competition from a spate of rigorous online news organizations — the Huffington Post, the Daily Caller, the Blaze, Newser and others — it is no slouch. The Beast’s website draws 4.5 million unique users and more than 50 million page views each month and was selected recently as one of Time magazine’s top five news websites of 2010.

Mr. Kurtz is “the latest gray-haired dude” to abandon the print world of newspapers and magazines for digital news coverage, said Joe Pompeo of the Business Insider, noting that Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, an investigative journalist with three decades of experience, recently joined the staff of the Huffington Post.

It is not exactly an exodus of the print veterans, though. Virtually every print publication and broadcast group has a strong online presence; the press has adjusted swiftly to the demands of its Web-savvy customers, the lure of fancy technology and the instant “multiplatform” delivery of news.

Traditional print news, however, is not lost in the shuffle: Some industry sources say that as much as 60 percent of all news content found either online or in broadcast sources originates in newspapers.

Still, the Wrap, an online publication that covers Hollywood and media, deemed Mr. Kurtz’s decision a “shocker,” while the New York Times said Mr. Kurtz’s decision was a “twist in the media world nobody saw coming.”

Possibly even Mr. Kurtz himself. The news critic revealed a few personal reservations he had about the buzzy chaos of online journalism in “Appeasing the Google gods,” a column he wrote Sept. 7

“Our mission — and we have no choice but to accept it — is to grab some of that traffic that could otherwise end up at hundreds of other places, even blogs riffing off the reporting that your own publication has done. Naturally, those who grew up as analog reporters wonder: Is journalism becoming a popularity contest?” Mr. Kurtz wondered.

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