Page Six Editor Leaves. End of the Line for the 'New York Post'?

Richard Johnson New York PostA little advice to those who work at the New York Post: Make sure you don't leave your resume on the printer today. I'm assuming you'll be updating it after hearing the news that Richard Johnson, longtime editor of the "Page Six" gossip column, is leaving to work on digital initiatives for News Corp. (NWS), the Post's parent company, in Los Angeles.

For those into tea leaf reading, it's a strong indication that owner Rupert Murdoch's patience with the tabloid may be approaching its inevitable end. Murdoch certainly isn't keeping the Post around for its contribution to the corporate coffers: The paper reportedly loses around $70 million a year. He hangs onto it, instead, for its influence, and it's chiefly through two sections that that influence extends beyond New York: its business pages and its gossip column.

However, the Post's business reporting, historically aggressive though it's been, was rendered an afterthought in 2007 by Murdoch's purchase of The Wall Street Journal. That leaves "Page Six" as its chief national raison d'etre. Yet, as the Village Voice's Foster Kamer points out, that all-important franchise is now in the hands of three writers who've been there for a combined total of around two years.

Of course, there are other ways to read the move. It may be that Murdoch felt he had to find a way to mollify Johnson after blocking him from taking a million-dollar job with The Hollywood Reporter over the summer. Murdoch has a reputation for keeping faith with his favorite newspapermen, and Johnson, after 25 years of combat service at the Post, had the right to ask for a change of scenery. Murdoch also has big, if vague, plans for a new national iPad-based newspaper, which Johnson, in his new role, will be involved with.

But a Post without a punchy, must-read "Page Six" is a Post that has a perilously tenuous argument for continued existence -- especially when Murdoch is simultaneously pouring money into establishing a second local-news beachhead with the Journal's "Greater New York" section.

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