Times DC Bureau Raids Washington Post; Leibovich Leaves, Two Others Staying

The New York Times raid raises the question of why the Gray Lady feels the need to steal from the Post, its main rival.

By: Harry Jaffe

Mark Leibovich, the Washington Post writer who put his fangs into Teresa Heinz Kerry, is switching to the New York Times.

The Times made a run at Leibovich last year, and at first he resisted its charms. He will write political features.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity,” he says, “leavened with a great deal of sadness in leaving a place I love.”

The Times has been wooing other Post writers. Sources tell The Washingtonian that White House correspondent Peter Baker got the Bill Keller/Phil Taubman rush. Ditto national-security writer Dafna Linzer.

Baker and Linzer seem to be sticking with the Post—for now.

“I was enormously flattered,” Baker says. “I think the world of the Times. I’ve been at the Post 18 years. It’s a great paper and a great place to work.”

Leibovich made his name at the Post by writing strong profiles of politicians, dissecting candidates, and penning wry accounts of political events. The Post nominated him for a Pulitzer this year.

His first big story in 2002 portrayed John Kerry, then a presidential hopeful, as more than a bit daunted by his wealthy, spirited, and talkative wife, Teresa. Sitting in their Georgetown manse, Kerry fidgeted while his wife tore into a Senate colleague and told her husband to keep quiet.

Leibovich has profiled Dick Cheney and Bill Richardson and was launching into another political season when the Times made a second offer, which he accepted.

Leibovich, 40, came to the Post in 1997. A Boston-area native, he’s still a Red Sox fan. He came to the Post from the San Jose Mercury News.

The New York Times raid raises the question of why the Gray Lady feels the need to steal from the Post, its main rival.

Is it possible that Times editor Keller and managing editor Jill Abramson are not pleased with the Washington bureau and want to shake it up? The bureau let Kate Phillips go as an editor, then rehired her as a reporter.

Abramson, head of the DC bureau before going to New York, is keenly aware of every time the Post scoops the Times in DC, and it has been happening with greater frequency.

At least the Times no longer will have Leibovich envy.