Photo: image via newyorkpost.com
The old media exodus continues.Richard Johnson, the veteran gossip reporter who has edited The New York Post’s iconic Page Six column for nearly 25 years, is leaving the paper — and New York — to “work on new digital ventures” out of Los Angeles for The Post’s parent company, News Corp. Page Six scribe Emily Smith will take over the column.
“It’s bittersweet,” New York Post editor-in-chief Col Allan told Page Six, which broke the news. “Richard is a great friend and we will miss him, but we’re excited for him, too.”
Allan’s sentimental parting words may seem surprising, however, considering only a few months ago he was trying to force Johnson to stay in his contract through 2012.
As Foster Kamer and Joe Coscarelli of The Village Voice reported in a recent cover story about the New York gossip press, Johnson was offered a $1 million gig at The Hollywood Reporter. He asked Allan to let him go early, to which Allan, who is Australian, replied: “Go back to your desk, mate,” according to The Voice.
It’s likely Johnson was let out of his contract after all since he is staying within the company. Page Six didn’t specify what sort of “digital ventures” he’d be working on, but News Corp is developing one with Johnson’s fellow New York Post vet, Jesse Angelo, the paper’s managing editor, who the company has tapped to edit a national digital newspaper that will be available exclusively on the iPad and other tablet devices. Perhaps Johnson will oversee the publication’s Hollywood coverage?
UPDATE – A former Post staffer offered some insight: “That whole place is a pit of depression — the culture is pure fear and anxiety, which doesn’t make for good gossip. Most people can’t believe he stayed as long as he did.”
Johnson, who is 56, is the latest in a handful of older print journalists who have recently traded their gigs at newspapers and magazines for jobs on the web. Most recently, The Daily Beast announced earlier this week it had poached longtime Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz.
Deadline.com’s Nikki Finke, who’s known Johnson “for seemingly forever,” remarked on her website that “newsosaur Richard is as old media as they come … I never thought he’d leave NYC or even the New York Post, despite many lucrative job offers over the years.”
Johnson’s recent chronicler, Kamer, of The Voice, also weighed in on his departure.
“Johnson changed the face of American gossip,” Kamer wrote. “[He] was without a doubt one of the most influential New Yorkers in the history of this city’s presses … An era of gossip in New York is over.”
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