Yahoo hires Daily News digital editor to build breaking news desk

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Yahoo has been poaching talent from legacy media outlets for much of the past year, and in its latest landgrab, the massive online portal turned content producer took a dip into New York's tabloid pool.

Daily News digital editorial director Lauren Johnston has been hired as a managing editor to build out a breaking news desk for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Internet company, which is in the midst of a newsroom expansion that marks Yahoo's latest attempt, over the past five years or so, to become a significant journalistic player.

Yahoo News editor-in-chief Megan Liberman, who was hired away from The New York Times last September, told Capital through a spokesman that Johnston has "the perfect mix of skills to build a breaking news desk that is both first to be right on the big stories while sourcing the viral ones that others haven’t discovered yet.”

Johnston, who did not return a phone call late last week, is the latest in a growing list of editorial recruits at Yahoo, ranging from Times veterans David Pogue, Matt Bai and Lisa Belkin, to TV news heavyweights Katie Couric and Michael Isikoff, to former gossip reporters Paula Froelich and Jo Piazza, among numerous others. The site has newsrooms in New York and D.C. and is aiming to build up its cachet among the East Coast media establishment, though its editorial strategy is still somewhat unclear.

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A five-and-a-half-year veteran, Johnston is also one in a number of fresh exits at the News, which also recently lost web editor Ted Young. In a staff memo, editor-in-chief Colin Myler wrote that she has "been [a] huge part of our success," which includes a significant web traffic increase as the print edition continues to face challenges. Myler announced that Kristen Lee has been promoted to director of digital development and Brad Gerick to director of social media.

Also on their way out the door are reporters Simone Weichselbaum, who as of July 8 becomes a staff writer at Neil Barsky's forthcoming news outlet covering the criminal justice system, and Joey Scarborough (son of MSNBC morning anchor Joe Scarborough), who is exploring new opportunities such as law school, according to sources familiar with his plans.

The News departures come as chatter about looming layoffs grows louder. The paper also just raised its cover price, suggesting it is looking at ways to get its finances in line.

A spokesman for the News declined to comment.