For a long time, the so-called Daily Planet, a just-for-tablet-devices newspaper that was being planned alongside a now-halted News Corp. scheme called Project Alesia, seemed like one of those ideas that was never going to make it into reality. Sure, it was a whim of Rupert Murdoch's, but so was the content-bundling Alesia — that one was a big whim that involved a lot of people — and the realities of the media world sometimes just get in the way. But then word started trickling down about the people who Rupert was hiring, and it got hard not to take it seriously. Perhaps most famously, Richard Johnson stepped down from his twenty-year perch at "Page Six" to move to Los Angeles and head up the tablet newspaper's Hollywood coverage. He'd been preceded out the door at the Post by talented executive editor Jesse Angelo, who had decamped to the new project in August. Then, on Tuesday, in a hire that was surely partially aimed at generating buzz, New Yorker pop-music critic Sasha Frere-Jones was hired to spend part of his time serving as the project's cultural editor (his job at The New Yorker won't change).
Also on Tuesday, Yahoo's new media blog the Cutline reported a number of names they've heard from the Daily Planet masthead: Elisabeth Eaves as opinion editor, Avi Zenilman as a business reporter (Avi, nooooooo!), AOL News's Mike Nizza as managing news editor, and the Star-Ledger's Chris D'Amico on sports. We could not get confirmation on any of these names, although we do hear that Chris Wilson — who Yahoo reported will decamp to Los Angeles to aid Johnson — will actually be based out of New York, working as a news editor.
We also hear that Molly Young (who actually is young — all of 23!) has also been hired full time. (Another mysterious News Corp. digital project, overseen by Wall Street Journal editor Robert Thomson and currently hiring some high-level insiders seems to be unrelated.)
The managers, we hear, are still on full-speed hiring mode. Which not only indicates that Murdoch has devoted plenty of money to the project (according to Jeff Bercovici, who couldn't confirm the number with News Corp., $30 million), but that they very well may be on track to reach what some have reported will eventually be a staff of 150 strong. Whether or not Murdoch knows what's going to work content-wise on the web — remember Pagesix.com? Myspace.com? — people like Nizza are tuned in after years of experience and innovation. Expect more big names to decamp to 1211 Avenue of the Americas before this thing launches.