Times1Both editors are veterans of The New York Times but have zero showbiz expertise. Because we all know that it takes no special knowledge to cover Hollywood, right? As a result, Mary Jo Murphy leaves the Week In Review to take charge of the Hollywood and publishing beats. And Craig Hunter moves from the science desk to oversee the TV, music, and advertising coverage. Like their predecessors, both report to Bruce Headlam who top edits the Media desk. Hunter replaces the very able Steve Reddicliffe who moves to the NYT‘s sports section after a near-lifetime editing and writing TV coverage. Steve deserves a medal for dealing with that virtual network flack Bill Carter who’s never met a TV CEO he didn’t fawn over. (New York Times’ Bill Carter Is At It Again) But Murphy replaces Rick Lyman, who heads to the national desk and may go down in the paper’s history as the worst movie editor of all time.

First, Lyman was a lousy NYT Hollywood correspondent. He was told to stop writing a series of “Watching Movies With…” articles on the grounds they were long and boring. He regularly trailed major media outlets on showbiz news. And he allowed himself to be used as a mouthpiece by every movie studio publicist, most regrettably by Harvey Weinstein’s. Then Lyman took that lameness back to NYC. Helped by the fact that he and Bill Keller were friends from their concurrent time covering South Africa (Lyman for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Keller winning a Pulitzer for the NYT), Lyman scored some plum jobs and eventually landed as the Culture section’s Hollywood editor. Then the Media Desk formed, and he and Reddicliffe became deputy editors on it.

But the problem is that, under Lyman’s years of poor leadership, the NYT coverage of Hollywood became — and still is — largely irrelevant. Once known for breaking news and informed analysis and trenchant trends about the entertainment biz, the paper now regularly takes a backseat to Bloomberg or the Wall Street Journal or Deadline or even a myriad websites. (I’m told Lyman would spend every hour of every day obsessing about Internet news breaks instead of doing anything about them.) Following instead of leading will be Lyman’s legacy.

Here’s the over-the-top NYT memo on the changes:

Many of you already know Mary Jo from her stints in Metro, National and at the IHT, and many more know her as the most frequent answer to the Al Siegal question, “Great headline. Who?” (Her favorite: “Much Nothing About A Do.”) She’s spent the past five years as an editor and occasional contributor in Week in Review, where she gained fans throughout the building with her sharp editing, vast general knowledge and wonderful bedside manner.

Mary Jo owes at least some of her store of knowledge to her childhood as an Army-intelligence brat. At 10, her family moved to England, where she was pressed into the service of the U.S. government, acting as a decoy at a bowling alley while her father spied on a Navy officer whose mistress was also sleeping with a Soviet. (Her government dossier reads “very effective as a decoy: as a bowler, not so much.”) She worked as a features writer for the Charlottesville Daily Progress before starting her near 20-year career in New York with stints at Travel and Leisure, US Magazine (where she worked with Steve Reddicliffe), The Daily News, The New York Post and New York Newsday. She lives in Long Island, where she is a groupie, possibly the only groupie, for her husband’s country rock band. Mary Jo will pick up the reins of our Hollywood and publishing coverage.

Those of you who’ve attended the Page One meeting in the past couple of years will know Craig Hunter for his unflappable demeanor, sly sense of humor, seemingly endless grasp of all things scientific and, in particular, the day he announced the discovery that Neanderthals had hooked up with humans 50,000 years ago which, in Craig’s telling, explained a lot.

Technology made an honest man of Craig, who began his career in the mid-1980s as a reporter at the Bridgeport Post-Telegram, where he worked for seven years before joining the Hartford Courant as an assistant bureau chief in Middletown before stints in the city room and systems. He came to The Times in 1998, working on the technology side, eventually rising to assistant editor in News Technology before becoming an editor on the Science Desk in January 2007. His knowledge of the digital world makes him the perfect midwife for our television, music and advertising coverage — areas that are all being transformed by the computer age. A graduate of the University of New Haven, he lives in Trumbull, has two daughters and, when not making scientific advances understandable to the rest of us, he renovates old houses.