As pointed out by Ben Smith at Politico, Richard Johnson — who has been working the New York Post‘s gossip beat for over 20 years — just abdicated his throne for a gig in L.A.
Johnson — according to the item placed, of course, in Page Six — is going to be working on “new digital ventures for News Corp.” Taking Johnson’s place will be Emily Smith, who cut her teeth working with Johnson, starting at the column last summer. A few things to immediately process:
- Page Six now has an all-female staff. The last male staffer to work the gossip sheet besides Johnson, Neel Shah, left earlier this summer for L.A.
- Smith, with one year at Page Six, has the most experience at the New York Post of all three staffers on it.
- It was first reported by Gawker that Johnson wanted to go to L.A. for a job with the Hollywood Reporter, but couldn’t because of a contract he wouldn’t be let out of by News Corp/the Post.
- Last month, this paper published a cover story documenting the changing face of Page Six, and Johnson’s strong desire to go west after a lifetime in New York City (and most of it spent working at the Post), noting that it was only a matter of time before Johnson left. Looks like that time just came.
- Ben Smith also rightfully pointed out that the move comes in the same week as another old-school print guy — Howard Kurtz — leaving his former print home (the Washington Post) for a digital venture (The Daily Beast) as well. One more and we’ll be able to name this week something fun.
- Page Six had all of its moxie housed in Johnson, who’s played with his elbows out in New York for quite a long time. The last of New York’s working old-school gossips is former Page Six-er Frank DiGiacomo, who’s editing the New York Daily News‘ Gatecrasher column as of a few months ago. DiGiacomo was brought in to ramp up the Daily News‘ gossip presence after NYDN gossip columnist and reporter George Rush unexpectedly took a buyout (in part, we’ve heard, because of the exhausting tyranny of features editor Orla Healy, who was fired last month from her job).
- Johnson has no publicly discernable knowledge or experience working with “digital ventures,” and had nothing to do with the short-lived PageSix.com. Rampant speculation: he may end up overseeing the editorial side in the launch of a digital product, maybe in a mutually beneficial agreement for Johnson to bide his time until his News Corp contract runs out, at which point, his options are obviously very, very open.
- News Corp clearly doesn’t have a problem hurting the already-suffering New York Post, which has been bleeding staffers when they can’t fire the ones fucking up, like their bad-tips-handing-down chief.
Johnson changed the face of American gossip; if there’s any art or craftsmanship left in it today, nobody would question the fact that he was a heavy hand in it. Johnson was without a doubt one of the most influential New Yorkers in the history of this city’s presses, and now he’s going to L.A., because as anybody knows, too much of this city will make you fucking insane, and if there’s any job that will inevitably drive one to overdose on New York City, it’s writing Page Six for over 20 years. Plenty of people will trot out plenty of supporting press lines about Emily Smith, many of which might be true: she is a hard worker, she does come from the U.K.’s notoriously insane and competitive gossip culture, she is cut out for the gig. But nobody’s replacing Johnson, or the native New Yorker’s natural talent for the job anytime soon (e.g. “ever”). The bottom line is this: the once-mighty reign of Page Six is now, categorically, finally finished. An era of gossip in New York is over.