Both 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. (more…)