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Post Watch: Barbarians at the Gate

New digital news sites are raiding the Washington Post’s readers and profits —and grabbing some of its best reporters

A decade ago, the Washington Post raked in profits and measured itself against the New York Times. Now “Brand X,” as Posties call the Times, has lured away a bevy of Post stars—from Peter Baker and Mark Leibovich to Sewell Chan and most recently Michael Shear—and it routinely puts out a more interesting and higher-quality product, in print and online. But the Post has more to fear. Here’s a look at the marauding news organizations and their top talent. Names in bold came from the Post.

One of many AOL sites, it brought on Melinda Henneberger to establish a killer lineup of proven journalists, from Bruce Drake, Eleanor Clift, and Carl Cannon to Lynn Sweet and Annie Groer, who covers capital gossip.

Bringing its big readership hungry for news from anywhere, Yahoo wants to establish a Washington bureau that puts up original stories about politics and the media. It lured Mike Calderone from Politico to cover media as well as political writers Holly Bailey from Newsweek and Chris Lehmann, formerly of CQ.

Launched in New York in 2005, the liberal Web site stole Jose Antonio Vargas and is building a strong Washington bureau, including Tom Edsall, Dan Froomkin, Sam Stein, Nico Pitney, and Howard Fineman, who came over from Newsweek.

Talk about a stunner. Howard Kurtz, the Post’s prolific media writer, splits for the Web-based tabloid to build a Washington bureau. He joins former Post gossip writer Lloyd Grove — now in New York — and Benjamin Sarlin, covering politics in Washington.

Allbritton Communications hired two Post tech stars — Jim Brady and Paul Volpe — to challenge the Post with a pure Internet publication focused on local news. Former Washington City Paper editor Erik Wemple runs a fast and aggressive news operation with original reporting as well as stories from the Post.

It was the first serious “barbarian.” Publisher Robert Allbritton shocked the Post by stealing top talents John Harris, Jim VandeHei, and Mike Allen to challenge the Post on the Internet. Allbritton brought on dozens more, including David Rogers, Jeanne Cummings, Josh Gerstein, and veteran Post editor Bill Hamilton.

This article first appeared in the November 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.  

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