Mike Fleming

The competition for writers between New York Magazine and The New York Times has taken a dramatic turn: New York Magazine editor Adam Moss has poached Frank Rich, the former theater critic who was one of the most important editorial voices at the newspaper. The magazine announced its Rich “get” this morning. He’d been an Times’ op-ed columnist since 1994. When he was drama critics from 1980 to 1993, a withering review from Rich would serve as a Broadway show’s epitaph because his opinion mattered that much. Rich has also had a relationship with HBO. He has been involved in several development projects. He’s an exec producer on Veep, which goes into production this week, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing the Vice President of the United States. The half-hour  show, written by Armando Ianucci, focused on the role of veep and how little power she actually has and how frustrated she is by it. Before the Rich move, sparring between the publications was focused on wrangling contributors from The New York Times Magazines as former Timesman Moss has worked to improve NY Mag’s content. Here’s the official announcement:

New York, NY, March 1, 2011—New York Magazine editor-in-chief Adam Moss announced today that Frank Rich will be joining the magazine, beginning in June. Rich will be an essayist for the magazine, writing monthly on politics and culture, and serve as an editor-at-large, editing a special monthly section anchored by his essay. He will also be a commentator on nymag.com, engaging in regular dialogues on the news of the week.

“Frank Rich is a giant—a powerhouse critic of politics and culture, a rigorous thinker, a glorious stylist, a skeptic and optimist at the same time. There is just no one like him in American journalism,” said Moss. “He is also a friend. I have had the privilege to work with him for almost 25 years. Since the day I came to New York, I have hoped I could persuade him to join us here. I’m ecstatic that he will now be bringing his wisdom to our growing audience. This is a very big day for New York.”

Rich joins the magazine from the New York Times, where he has been an op-ed columnist since 1994. He was previously the paper’s chief drama critic, from 1980 to 1993. His weekly 1,500-word essay helped inaugurate the expanded opinion pages that the Times introduced in the Sunday “Week in Review” section in 2005. From 2003 to 2005, Rich had been the front-page columnist for the Sunday “Arts & Leisure” section as part of that section’s redesign and expansion. He also served as senior adviser to the Times’s culture editor on the paper’s overall cultural-news report. From 1999 to 2003, he was also senior writer for The New York Times Magazine. The dual title was a first for the Times and allowed Rich to explore a variety of topics at greater length than before. He has written about culture and politics for many national publications. His books include Ghost Light: A Memoir and, most recently, The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth From 9/11 to Katrina. Rich will continue in his role as a creative consultant to HBO, where he is also an executive producer of two projects, Veep, a pilot currently in production for a comedy series written and directed by Armando Iannucci and starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and a documentary on Stephen Sondheim.

“There is no greater newspaper than the Times,” said Rich. “I leave the paper with deep affection for both the institution and my many brilliant colleagues, and with much gratitude for the opportunity the paper gave me to serve in two dream jobs in journalism. After seventeen years in my second career there, as a columnist, I feel much as I did after nearly fourteen years in my first, as chief drama critic—both the satisfaction that I’ve given a great job all I had and a serious hunger to move on to fresh and expanded writing challenges after having done the same assignment for so long. I’ve spent much of the past year talking to friends inside and outside the Times about what might be most exciting for me next. It was impossible to top the idea of reuniting with my friend Adam Moss, who has played a crucial role in my writing life since the late 1980s and who, as editor of the Times Magazine, was instrumental in my transition from arts criticism to broader essay writing. 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.”

“One of the many things I have always admired about Frank is his creative restlessness,” said Moss. “He refuses to coast, even while still at the height of his creative powers. He left the drama-critic job to reinvent himself as a political analyst, and he was superb at both. This is his next chapter. Frank will be working in a variety of innovative formats here. His legion of readers knows him for his insight and wit. But they don’t know what a superb editorial mind he has. He has been a counselor to me throughout our careers. I first worked with him at Esquire; he was a brilliant contributor to The New York Times Magazine during my time there, and we collaborated on the remaking of the Times’ culture coverage. At New York, he will be shaping a new kind of magazine section around the subject of his monthly essay. He will also be offering his insights weekly online, in a feature designed especially to showcase his talents as an original observer of American culture.”

New York was founded in 1968 by Clay Felker and Milton Glaser. Over the last five years, the magazine has won fifteen National Magazine Awards, including three for General Excellence in Print and two for General Excellence Online. The magazine’s website nymag.com now includes Daily Intel, a channel of news and opinion; Vulture, covering culture; The Cut, covering fashion; and Grub Street, covering food.

“We are proud to add the extraordinary talent of Frank Rich to New York,” says publisher Larry Burstein. “He joins at a perfect time, as the company has evolved into a print and digital juggernaut. What began as a single magazine title with great influence in New York now includes award-winning digital products and reaches
10 million readers and web users nationwide each month, bringing critical success to critical mass. With Frank Rich contributing, we expect our influence to grow even wider.”

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