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At the Inquirer, Shrink Globally, Slash Locally?

Philadelphia Inquirer chief executive Brian Tierney, left, introduces new editor William Marimow, who replaces the fired Amanda Bennett, right.
Philadelphia Inquirer chief executive Brian Tierney, left, introduces new editor William Marimow, who replaces the fired Amanda Bennett, right. (By Michael Bryant / Philadelphia Inquirer Via Associated Press)

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Media circles are buzzing over last week's decision by John Harris, The Post's political editor, and Jim VandeHei, a top political reporter, to jump to a multimedia venture being launched by Allbritton Communications. "This was the chance to do something from scratch," says Harris, who will become editor in chief of a new Hill newspaper, the Capitol Leader, and launch a new politics Web site, both in January. VandeHei will be a "player/coach" and executive managing editor of the paper, says Fred Ryan, Allbritton's president.

Ryan says they will "transcend various forms of media" by also appearing on Allbritton's WJLA-TV and NewsChannel8, and on such programs as "Face the Nation" through an alliance with CBS News.

Harris sees the Web site as having "a more conversational style, more transparency about how news gets created and gets covered." He says his compensation reflects the "risk" of joining a startup but that it is "not a huge, eye-popping salary."

His departure is being misinterpreted, says Harris, as a vote of no confidence in print journalism or The Post. "I was eager to try something outside the walls of the institution," he says.

Some bloggers have poked fun at VandeHei for telling the New York Observer that the new venture will be better than The Post or New York Times and that prominent journalists are "begging" him for jobs. "I should choose my words more carefully," VandeHei told the Romenesko media Web site.

Meanwhile, former Style editor David Von Drehle, who was to become the section's top political writer, is joining Time as a national correspondent. Turnover is hardly unusual at big papers, but these and other recent defections by political writers -- Mike Allen to Time, Mark Leibovich to the New York Times -- leave The Post with some holes to fill.

Making Amends

Barack Obama is truly sorry. And he knows how to do apologies.

Nicklaus Lovelady says he tried to ask the Illinois senator a question at a news conference two years ago, only to have Obama say the event was for professional media only. When Lovelady protested that he worked for the local newspaper, Obama said: "I thought you were a college student. You have such a baby face." That putdown, writes Lovelady, caused a "pretty young thing" he'd been courting to give him the cold shoulder.

After Lovelady wrote about the incident two weeks ago, Obama called to apologize "for messing up your game . . . I feel terrible." And, he added, if the woman "was that superficial, she wasn't worth it." What's more, Obama's staff taped the call and sent it to the National Public Radio show "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me." How's that for damage control?

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