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From AJR,   September 2010

Leaving Legacy Media Behind   

Web exclusive
The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz is the latest to jump to the digital world.

By Rem Rieder
Rem Rieder (rrieder@ajr.umd.edu) is AJR's editor and senior vice president.     

Wow. Another sign of the apocalypse.

Not really. More like another sign of the inexorable shift from legacy media to a new media landscape.

Howard Kurtz, the indefatigable media writer for the Washington Post, is leaving to become Washington bureau chief for Tina Brown's The Daily Beast.

Not so long ago, Kurtz's move would have been inconceivable. He seemed like the classic Post lifer. Kurtz has spent nearly 30 years at the paper, and he enjoys a very high-profile perch, one that propelled him into hosting CNN's "Reliable Sources."

For years prestigious news organizations like the Post and the New York Times really were destination newspapers. People battled hard to get there, and once on board, if things worked out for them, they were likely there for the duration.

But now newspapers are beleaguered, their futures uncertain as they struggle to adjust to the digital age. And some exciting new destinations have arrived on the scene.

Of course, in this case, there is the glam factor as well. Kurtz says he has wanted to work for former New Yorker and Vanity Fair Editor Brown "forever – well, for a long time.."

Kurtz's defection comes on the heels of the departure of high-profile business writer Peter Goodman from the New York Times to join The Huffington Post. In an interview with – inevitably―Kurtz, Goodman said he looked forward to being freed from the confining conventions of traditional journalism.

"For me it's a chance to write with a point of view," he said. "It's sort of the age of the columnist. With the dysfunctional political system, old conventional notions of fairness make it hard to tell readers directly what's going on. This is a chance for me to explore solutions in my economic reporting."

The adrenaline-fueled Kurtz also seems excited by the move to the deadline-every-second digital world. "After a lifetime in newspapers," he said, "I'm ready for the challenge of fast-paced online journalism."

And after chronicling the moves of so many journalists from old-school to new-era jobs, Kurtz couldn't resist the siren call.

When John Harris and Jim VandeHei left the Post in 2006 to launch Politico, I wrote that their departures had the feel of a "truly significant benchmark."

Now, as new enterprises establish themselves and traditional ones continue to shrink, the benchmarks keep on coming.