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New York Times Opposes Comcast – Time Warner Cable, A Break From Editorial Pack

By | Tuesday May 27, 2014 @ 11:30am PDT

Comcast Time Warner Cable merger logoThe media elite took notice this morning when The New York Times editorial board opposed Comcast‘s $45B acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Calling it “A Cable Merger Too Far” the lead editorial says: “The merger will concentrate too much market power in the hands of one company, creating a telecommunications colossus the likes of which the country has not seen since 1984 when the government forced the breakup of the original AT&T telephone monopoly.” The board signaled its likely conclusion in February when it said that regulators should not accept the pro-deal argument “without conducting a thorough investigation into what effect a merger between the country’s two largest cable companies would have on the media and the Internet.”

The change in the editorial view stands out because, well, it’s The Times — and therefore assumed to wield influence over any public policy debate. It adds establishment heft to the anti-deal case as the Justice Department and FCC weigh the merits, and politics, of their decisions.

But the editorial also is notable because it breaks from the major newspaper pack. The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Philadelphia Inquirer (Comcast’s home town paper) have supported the merger. “Consolidation is the only way to ensure these companies have enough capital to invest in new and better technology that will keep their customers happy — or, at least, satisfied enough not to … Read More »

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R.I.P. The New York Times’ Culture Editor Arthur Gelb

By | Tuesday May 20, 2014 @ 8:52pm PDT

Arthur GelbUPDATED WITH NEW INFORMATION: Arthur Gelb, a visionary critic, reporter and editor at The New York Times for more than four decades, died Tuesday evening at his home in Manhattan. He was 90. His death was confirmed by his son, Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera. The elder Gelb’s passion for the culture and vibrancy of New York City defined him, and he requited that passion by endowing the Times with a proprietary interest in vigorously covering the artistic life of the city and making the culture report as important to the paper as its storied foreign coverage.

Related: New Yorker Backs Off Pay-Gap Charge In Firing of NYT Editor Jill Abramson

woody-allen__130819125225-150x150Barbra Streisand singingBeginning in 1944 as a reporter and later as assistant drama critic, head of the Metropolitan desk and through his final assignment as Managing Editor under his colleague and mentor A.M. Rosenthal, Gelb was chiefly responsible for shaping and directing the Times‘ cultural coverage. Early on, as assistant to the Times‘ legendary drama critic Brooks Atkinson, Gelb set his keen eye and ear to the discovery of fresh talent. Among those who caught his eye and received early and ongoing encouragement from the paper’s reporters and critics were an intellectual stand-up comic named Woody Allen; a Broadway ingenue named Barbra Streisand; an acerbic, potty-mouthed comic named Lenny Bruce; and a street-fighting, Shakespeare-quoting young producer named Joseph Papp. Read More »

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UPDATE: New Yorker Backs Off Pay-Gap Charge In Firing of NYT Editor Jill Abramson

By | Sunday May 18, 2014 @ 5:57pm PDT

UPDATED, 5:57 PM: In round three of his coverage of l’affair Abramson, New Yorker media reporter Ken Auletta pulled back from his claim that the first female executive editor of the New York Times was ousted by publisher and chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. after raising issues about getting lower compensation than her predecessor.  In a shocking post on Sunday evening at, Auletta wrote that, according to “extremely well-informed sources at the paper” — presumably Sulzberger himself or his proxy — “Abramson was, essentially, fired for cause, for lying to Sulzberger…” The linchpin issue, Auletta reports, was Abramson’s courtship of Janine Gibson, editor of the American edition of the Guardian newspaper, to run the Times’s digital operations.

Nytimes_hqIt’s been widely reported that Abramson had the support of both Sulzberger and chief financial officer Mark Thompson, and that the deal was all but done to bring Gibson — a powerhouse journalist who had been chiefly responsible for the Edward Snowden revelations of the inner workings of the National Security agency — to the Times masthead at a level parallel to her managing editor, Dean Baquet. However, Auletta writes, that was with the “assurance she had squared Gibson’s rank and arrival with Baquet when, in fact, she had not. The sources say she misled Sulzberger when she said, in person and by e-mail, that she had consulted with Baquet about the offer to Gibson and had worked it all out in detail with him.” Gibson told Auletta  that “Jill was explicit in our initial conversation when she told me, ‘The first thing I have to do is talk to Dean.’ I’m mortified that these discussions are in public and feel very strongly that Jill should not have been hung out to dry when she behaved honorably and was trying to do what she thought was best for the New York Times.” Read More »

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NY Times Amends 1853 Article On Subject Of Oscar-Winning ‘12 Years A Slave’

By | Wednesday March 5, 2014 @ 3:14am PST

12 years a slaveThe New York Times on Tuesday issued a correction to a 161-year-old story that covered the plight of Solomon Northup, the subject of Best Picture Oscar winner 12 Years A Slave. The original newspaper report, dated January 20, 1853, ran with the headline “The Kidnapping Case” and the sub-headline “Narrative of the Seizure and Recovery of Solomon Northrup.” The article had two misspellings of Northup’s name, one in the sub-headline and one in the body that spelled it as Northrop. The correction was made after people tweeted the error on Monday. One of the Twitter posts was by author Rebecca Skloot, rights to whose 2010 non-fiction bestseller The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks were acquired by HBO Films for a movie to be exec produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball. 12 Years A Slave is the story of a New York State black man who was born free but later kidnapped in Washington, DC in 1841 and sold into slavery. The NYT correction notes in part: “The errors notwithstanding, The Times described the article as ‘a more complete and authentic record than has yet appeared’.”

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Weinsteins Decide ‘Philomena’-NY Post Dust-Up Makes For Great Ad Copy

By | Wednesday December 4, 2013 @ 5:31pm PST

Related: The Real ‘Philomena’ Answers New York Post Critic

philomenaGotta hand it to Harvey: When he sees an angle to boost the profile of his movies, he goes for it. The Weinstein Company is placing an ad in tomorrow’s New York Times referencing the skirmish between NY Post reviewer Kyle Smith and the real-life Philomena Lee, the subject of the distributor’s Oscar-season pic Philomena directed by Stephen Frears and starring Judi Dench as Lee. That’s the rift Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. told you about first last week by publishing Lee’s response to Smith’s review that called the pic among other things an attack on Catholics.  The NYT ad excerpts Lee’s letter to Smith that Fleming ran full and comes complete with a a call to action — “Decide For Yourself” — even though the movie’s been in the marketplace since the week before Thanksgiving. Click over for the ad: Read More »

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Rachel Abrams Leaving Variety For New York Times

By | Friday September 27, 2013 @ 11:25am PDT

Rachel Abrams showed her chops often on the financial beat at Deadline’s sister publication. But now she is exiting the showbiz trade after three years (she started as an intern) to cover Wall Street for The New York Times. The move was confirmed today by Penske Media, owner of both Variety and Deadline. Read More »

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UPDATE: NY Times Hacking Traced To Phishing Attack; Twitter, HuffPo Also Hit

By | Wednesday August 28, 2013 @ 10:05am PDT

UPDATE, 10:05 AM: Tuesday’s hacking of the New York Times also included similar attacks on Twitter and Huffington Post UK, although those outlets were not as widely affected as the completely KO’ed NYT website. Twitter acknowledged a two-hour service issue “in which it appears DNS records for various organizations were modified” including one of Twitter’s image servers and HuffPo UK reported “minimal disruption of service.” All three website registrations went through Melbourne IT, which LAT reports was the source of the breach after a phishing attack on the firm gave hackers access to a company reseller’s username and password.

PREVIOUS, TUES PM: The New York Times has confirmed that its website domain name registrar Melbourne IT was hack-attacked earlier today “by the Syrian Electronic Army or someone trying very hard to be them.” That’s according to an internal email sent out by NYT Chief Information Officer Marc Frons. He also warned employees not to send sensitive info via email until security was restored. Hacker group Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for the NYT hacking on Twitter. Ironically it also claimed to have hacked Twitter’s domain today along with those of NYT and Huffington Post. As select NYT pages were restored this afternoon, the paper claimed today’s assault was its first hacking by the SEA. Read More »

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UPDATE: New York Times Web Site Back Up After 2 Hour Outage

By | Wednesday August 14, 2013 @ 10:18am PDT

UPDATE, 10:18 AM: News junkies can relax. The New York Times is back up on the Web after what it says was “a server issue” that knocked out the news and corporate sites for about two hours. During the outage the paper turned to Facebook to post its coverage of the state of emergency in Egypt. Fox Business says that it’s told that the site was hit by a cyber attack and that officials have been “huddling with outside security professionals to assess the threat.”

PREVIOUS, 8:42 AM: The news and corporate sites — but not the mobile application — are off and Fox Business says that a source tells it that the paper is “under cyber attack.” But the Times says that the outage “is the result of an internal issue, which we expect to be resolved soon.” One Times employee tweets that “we’re hearing that a malfunctioning system patch somehow brought down the site and email.” New York Times Digital was the No. 34 top Web property in June with 30.6M unique visitors, comScore says. 

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Todd Hoffman Departing ICM Partners To Start Own Company

By | Monday July 15, 2013 @ 11:27am PDT

Todd Hoffman joined BWCS in 2000 before that agency was acquired by ICM Partners. Now he is leaving to open a new management and production company. His transition will take place over the rest of the summer, and ICM Partners will continue to work with him. Among Hoffman’s clients in the New York Times, for which he has handled several deals, and he also repped the Joe Paterno movie deal that Brian De Palma is developing with Al Pacino playing the former Penn State football coach whose legacy was tarnished by the Jerry Sandusky pedophile scandal.

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New York Times Names New Culture Editor

By | Friday March 8, 2013 @ 9:18am PST

BREAKING… It’s Travel Editor Danielle Mattoon, whose name only recently joined a small list of four candidates for the high-profile New York Times Culture Editor job which directs coverage of Hollywood as well as high-brow. This one-time Arts & Leisure deputy editor became the paper’s replacement for Stuart Emmrich who moved from Travel to take over the Style section. She was senior editor at Tina Brown’s short-lived Talk magazine before landing as deputy culture editor at the NYT. Before that, she was an editor at Rolling Stone. I’ve always thought the NYT Travel section one of the truly bright spots in an otherwise increasingly grey and uninteresting Sunday read. Also Spin veteran Sia Michel was upped from deputy editor to the new editor for Arts & Leisure, succeeding Scott Veale who ran it for 5 years and will soon be named to a new editing role.

Executive Editor Jill Abramson‘s announcement today was nearly 4 weeks late according to her own timetable for naming a new Culture Editor. Then again, she has a lot on her plate because her publication is beset by financial problems, editorial buyouts, stiff competition, not to mention conservative critics who want to put what they see as the Liberal Paper Of Record out of business. Abramson was replacing Jonathan Landman who took a voluntary January buyout intended to reduce staff, then bid a private Culture department–only goodbye on February 1st at a farewell bash at a bar in the Woolworth Building with Bill Keller, Sam Sifton, and others in attendance. (Seems there were many speeches and Landman was presented with a big gag crown.)

My sources identified 4 main candidates including Mattoon for the Culture Editor job whom Abramson had expected to name by February 11th: onetime wonderkind Jodi Kantor, respected film critic AO Scott, and web editor Julie Bloom. The latter was the most interesting candidate: currently Bloom is the NYT’s Culture Web Editor at New York Times Digital, and my sources believed her appointment would have signaled a seismic shift in the paper’s treatment of the web as a second-class citizen vis a vis print. There was nearly universal surprise when Scott threw his hat into the ring. But Kantor was widely considered the favorite if not a shoo-in.

Actually, what surprises me more than Mattoon’s appointment is that this Culture Editor search caused barely a blip on the radar of the media which used to hone in on all things NYT. But those days are gone. The most damning thing to say about the NYT’s Culture section is that Hollywood doesn’t read it much anymore. That’s because the showbiz ink has dwindled and become divided between the Business, Culture, Arts & Leisure, Magazine and even Style sections. How is it determined which article goes where? “If you can find out that answer, please tell me,” one onsider admits to me. The departed Lynn Hirschberg singlehandedly made the NYT magazine irrelevant in Hollywood by profiling filmmakers repped by producers or publicists who were her pals yet whose movies didn’t have a prayer of Oscar nods. (Remember her piece on Jarhead?) Now the Arts & Leisure section is making itself irrelevant by publishing overly long breathless pieces about movies that don’t break ground or deliver grosses. (One recent example was a tribute to Gangster Squad, which everyone else knew was dead on arrival in theaters. The paper claimed its director was “trying something new” when even Warner Bros execs reasoned it was “the same old/same old”.) As for the Business and Culture sections, more Hollywood stuff is printed in the Culture section than in Business “by a 4-to-1 margin”, by one reporter’s estimate. (I would have guessed the reverse.) The paper’s so-called Media Group work for Bruce Headlam and his #2 Bill Brink – and those two decide where to direct each article. “A lot of the time it frankly doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” one insider admits to me.

As for what deep-sixed Kantor, it wasn’t any one thing. At 37, she isn’t the rising star anymore who made a name for herself after she attended Harvard Law for one semester and took a leave to go into journalism. She became New York editor at Slate before jumping in 2003 to the NYT after corresponding with columnist Frank Rich about how that paper could improve its arts coverage and he talent-spotted her. She was brought on as editor of the Arts & Leisure section by Howell Raines as apparently the youngest person to edit a NYT section. Kantor was Internet savvy before it become necessary and in tune with pop culture when the paper turned a deaf ear. In 2007, Kantor turned to covering politics for the NYT, including the 2008 presidential campaign. She got the idea for her seven-figure book deal, The Obamas, back in 2009 when she interviewed the couple in the Oval Office for a piece  about their marriage. She did not have an easy time of it when the book was published in January 2012. Although her defenders said it was accurate, her detractors including the White House claimed it was not and described it as an overdramatization of old news about a relationship between two people whom the author had not spoken to in years,” Kantor did admit she “could have been more precise” about a passage saying Michelle Obama’s efforts to help stump for her husband’s health care plan were mostly thwarted by the West Wing. (Politico presented Kantor with a series of clippings that ran counter to her premise — including one from the NYT.) Now a NYT national correspondent by way of Brooklyn where she lives with her family, Kantor according to my sources wants to put down roots inside NYT headquarters. An expert self-promotor, Kantor this year posted a few suck-up Facebook updates in praise of “ultra-beloved” Landman and also “the brilliant” Rebecca Corbett recently promoted to senior enterprise editor for the entire paper. Didn’t that sound like someone about to become a colleague?

Here is Abramson’s internal memo with the Mattoon appointment: Read More »

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Jeff Zucker To Be Named CNN Boss: NYT

By | Tuesday November 27, 2012 @ 4:21pm PST

Jeff Zucker is expected to be named the new worldwide president of CNN, The New York Times is reporting. A source with knowledge of the Zucker/CNN talks confirmed to Deadline, “They have been in conversation for a long time and it looks like this is a done deal.” The announcement of the former NBC Universal chief executive to replace the outgoing Jim Walton is supposed to happen within the next few days. Walton officially steps down from his post on December 31st. Zucker is currently the executive producer of Katie Couric‘s syndicated daytime talk show but has been looking to make a move back into the corporate ranks. As Deadline reported last month, Disney-ABC have already started searching for a replacement for Zucker on Couric’s show. For the time being, the daytime show will be run by the current producing team. Only recently Zucker’s name emerged as a CNN contender even though the job is much smaller than the top NBCU gig he held from 2007-2010 when he was unceremoniously fired by new owner Comcast #2 Steve Burke. Formerly executive producer of Today from 1992-2000 and before that an NBC news producer, Zucker will take on the ratings-challenged cable news network whose Nielsen’s have been plummeting. However, Zucker’s news experience is now over a decade old and the landscape has changed dramatically.

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New York Times Slashes Access To Free Web Content

Starting in April non-subscribers will only be able to see 10 articles, slide shows or videos a month for free, down from 20, the paper says this morning. If you want more, then you’ll have to buy one of The Times’ digital subscriptions. Now brace yourself for the caveats: Even if you’re past the limit, you can still see an article for free if you reach it via a search engine, or an email or blog link — but you can only see five a day from some unnamed search engines. The home page and section fronts also will be free to browse. Smartphone and tablet users will be able to see top news stories for free — but will have to subscribe to see anything else.

The Times tried to spin the news as sign of how well it’s doing in the digital world. One year after it erected its pay wall, the paper has 454,000 paid digital subscribers.  “We knew that readers placed a high value on our journalism, and we anticipated they would respond positively to our digital subscription packages,” Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr says. Still, he has a lot riding on his ability to nudge online readers to pay — without giving print customers an incentive to switch to a lower-priced digital-only subscription. Read More »

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HBO To Tell Timesman David Rohde’s Kidnap Tale ‘A Rope And A Prayer’

By | Monday December 5, 2011 @ 1:09pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: HBO Films has hired war correspondent-turned-documentary filmmaker Greg Barker to helm A Rope And A Prayer, a film about the kidnapping by the Taliban of two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times foreign correspondent David Rohde. Rohde wrote the book with his wife Kristen Mulvihill, a photo editor at Cosmopolitan Magazine. They had only been married two months when Rohde was taken into captivity by the Taliban in 2008 en route to an interview with a Taliban leader, in Afghanistan. She banged on the door of every journalist, politician and even the Taliban to try and free him. HBO also acquired Rohde’s five-part series written for the newspaper shortly after he and an Afghan colleague used a car tow line to drop from a wall and escape.

Michelle Ashford, whose credits include HBO’s The Pacific, is writing the script. Michael London and Janice Williams will produce for Groundswell Productions. Barker, who directed the docus Koran By Heart and Sergio for HBO, is repped by Gersh and Parallax Talent Management. ICM brokered the deal for Rohde and The New York Times.

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Kathryn Bigelow Bin Laden Film Getting DC Scrutiny

By | Wednesday August 10, 2011 @ 1:41pm PDT
Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Congressman Peter King has stated his reason for asking for an investigation. The letter appears below the original text.

BREAKING: New York-based congressman Peter King has called for an investigation into the Obama Administration’s cooperation with the untitled movie that The Hurt Locker’s Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal are making about Navy SEAL Team 6′s hunt and eventual kill of 9/11 terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. The request came after a New York Times column by Maureen Dowd reporting that the film — which was acquired at auction by Sony Pictures before a script was completed — received cooperation and help in describing a mission that was classified. The filmmakers have just released the following statement:

“Our upcoming film project about the decade long pursuit of Bin Laden has been in the works for many years and integrates the collective efforts of three administrations, including those of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, as well as the cooperative strategies and implementation by the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. Indeed, the dangerous work of finding the world’s most wanted man was carried out by individuals in the military and intelligence communities who put their lives at risk for the greater good without regard for political affiliation. This was an American triumph, both heroic, and non-partisan and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise.” Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal. Read More »

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UPDATE: Media Stocks Continue To Suffer As Recession Fears Spread

UPDATE, 1:30 PM: Fear that the economy may be headed back into recession seemed to grow in the last hour of trading. The Dow ended the day -4.3% at 11,383.68. It was the biggest single-day drop since Oct. 22, 2008 and took the Dow below where it was at the beginning of 2011. Similarly, the S&P 500 was -4.8% and NASDAQ was -5.1%.

Although most media companies remain well ahead of where they were a year ago, today’s losses still look ugly. CBS, down 9.3%, was the hardest-hit infotainment giant. Here’s how the other Big Guns fared: News Corp -6.7%, Sony -6.5%, Disney -5.6%, Time Warner -4.6%, Comcast -4.3%, and Viacom -3.4%.

Among other media companies, Comscore finished -38.3% and Westwood One was -13.2%. Sinclair Broadcasting and McClatchy each lost more than 9%. Cinedigm, Live Nation, TiVo, and Liberty Media fell at least 8%. And Yahoo, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, The New York Times Company, Coinstar, and Dish Network lost at least 7%. Even World Wrestling Entertainment, which had been up earlier in the day, closed -1.4%.

The only company in the sector that gained ground today was Pandora Media. It ended +1.6% after Bank of America Merrill Lynch initiated coverage with a “buy” recommendation. Read More »

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New York Times Names Jill Abramson Top Editor

By | Thursday June 2, 2011 @ 9:29am PDT
Mike Fleming

The New York Times has named longtime managing editor Jill Abramson to become executive editor. She’ll replace her boss, Bill Keller, who’ll step down to become a writer for the paper. Abramson was an investigative reporter and former Washington bureau chief for the paper before being named managing editor in 2003. According to the Times, the 57-year-old Abramson likened the job to “ascending to Valhalla.” The change takes place Sept. 6. Keller ran the paper for the past eight years at a time when it was reeling from the implications of the digital age, which has taxed every newspaper’s circulation and advertising revenues. These troubles are a big part of the Andrew Rossi-directed Page One: Inside The New York Times, a documentary that made its debut at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media.

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New York Times Paywall Goes Up March 28

By | Thursday March 17, 2011 @ 10:05am PDT

The newspaper has tried a pay model a couple of times before — who can forget TimesSelect? This time around, it’ll cost you $15 every four weeks for full access to the U.S. website and app. Print subscribers will continue to get access for free. Everyone else gets 20 free views a month before you are asked to become a digital subscriber. Here’s the memo from publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr sent out today:

Dear New York Times Reader,

Today marks a significant transition for The New York Times as we introduce digital subscriptions. It’s an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in The Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform. The change will primarily affect those who are heavy consumers of the content on our Web site and on mobile applications.

This change comes in two stages. Today, we are rolling out digital subscriptions to our readers in Canada, which will enable us to fine-tune the customer experience before our global launch. On March 28, we will begin offering digital subscriptions in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Read More »

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Summit, Participant And Imagenation Target Oil Rig Tragedy

Mike Fleming

Summit Entertainment, Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi optioned Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hour, a New York Times article from last Dec. 25 that will inform a film they’ll develop about the oil-rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  Matthew Sand will write the script. The Times’ article was written by David Barstow, David Rohde and Stephanie Saul. Lorenzo di Bonaventura will produce. ICM repped deal.

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Frank Rich Leaves New York Times For New York Magazine

By | Tuesday March 1, 2011 @ 7:28am PST
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

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