Howard Kurtz, the media columnist for The Washington Post, has shocked the media industry by announcing that he is leaving The Post to join The Daily Beast, a fast-growing online publication launched two years ago.
Kurtz will be The Daily Beast's Washington bureau chief, with a brief covering "politics, media, and the intersection of the two".
"I'm incredibly impressed by the energy and creativity of The Daily Beast staff," said Kurtz in a statement issued by The Daily Beast. "After a lifetime in newspapers, I'm ready for the challenge of fast-paced online journalism."
Few anticipated Kurtz's announcement that he was leaving the publication for which he has written for 29 years, and colleagues were reportedly stunned when news broke of his departure. Since 1990, Kurtz has been assigned to coverage of media issues, becoming well-known for his columns in the print publication and his regular blog entries on The Post's website.
He will continue to present CNN's Reliable Sources programme, described as the longest-running show covering the media on American television.
The signing of Kurtz is a major coup for Tina Brown, the founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, and came just a day before the website's second birthday. The acquisition highlights attempts by increasingly influential online publications, including The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post, to poach writers from established "traditional" media publications.
"I have great respect for Howard as a journalist and newsbreaker, but I admire him most of all for his understanding of media and politics as the story of our era," said Brown, who rose to prominence as the editor of Vanity Fair (1984-1992) and The New Yorker (1992-1998).
"He is that rare reporter with a metabolism that outpaces the frenetic subjects he covers. I am excited that he will be a driving force in The Daily Beast's coverage of this upcoming midterm election and for many election cycles to come."
Kurtz said that the decision to quit The Post had been difficult, and that the publication had "made it clear they did not want me to leave". But he told NPR that the ability to participate in and guide the development of The Daily Beast's Washington coverage had convinced him that switching would be the right "career decision".
"I have printer's ink in my veins. I always thought I would be a newspaper man. But we're all sort of hurtling into the digital future, and the opportunity at The Daily Beast, to help shape what is essentially a two-year-old startup site, and to expand the Washington presence, was too tempting to pass up," he said.
Kurtz emphasised that he was not leaving The Post because of discontent with the publication's direction, or because of any views about its ability to survive in the future media landscape. He did, however, say that the "atmosphere" at The Post had been affected by financial pressures on the news room.
The Daily Beast says that it averages 4.5 million unique visitors and over fifty million page impressions per month. Its growing audience has helped to fuel speculation of a potential merger with Newsweek, the struggling newsmagazine which The Washington Post Company offloaded in August.
Newsweek's new owner, Sidney Harman, has been in discussions with Brown over some form of business arrangement between Newsweek and The Daily Beast, sources told The New York Times.
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