Times Magazine Launching Entertainment Column

Changes at the New York Times Magazine: Starting in October, the front of book will be home to a weekly home entertainment column. Times television critic Virginia Heffernan has been chosen to ink the column; her Screens blog will be moving to the Mag‘s side of the website in a fun little quasi-marketing move as well.

Does this mean the next lonelygirl15 will get picked up by the Times Magazine? Probably.

Full memo after the jump.

Neal Ungerleider

That’s Entertainment! Heffernan to Magazine

Television critic Virginia Heffernan will move to the magazine in October. Read the note from Gerry Marzorati and Sam Sifton.

Virginia Heffernan plays a role at The Times not unlike that of Russell Owen, the correspondent who nearly 80 years ago traveled literally to the end of the earth to cover Richard Byrd’s pioneering expedition to the South Pole. Except that Virginia does the bulk of her exploring from Brooklyn, in front of her computer, where she has been a pioneering observer and critic of online video.

A year ago, she discovered a Web phenomenon called lonelygirl15 and used her nytimes.com blog, Screens, to propel a discussion about whether lonelygirl was the home-schooled teenager she claimed to be or a fictional stalking horse for either marketers or wannabe moviemakers. The cynics among us knew how that was likely to turn out. But Virginia – who combines an innocent’s joy in stumbling across the new with a sophisticate’s savvy about using the Web to keep her readers talking – exulted in mucking around the gray areas of the hoax.

Starting in October, Virginia will do her mucking for The New York Times Magazine. She will write a weekly, front-of-the-book column for the magazine all about home entertainment: the flood of media pouring into our homes (and cellphones) in the form of programming to watch or games to play or content to confect and mash up and pass along to friends and strangers; the technology that allow us to consume and manufacture entertainment; and the culture growing up around this new world of media. The Screens blog will accompany her, becoming part of the Magazine’s expanding presence on nytimes.com.

Virginia joined The Times as a television critic, working under the estimable Alessandra Stanley, and has continued in that role even as the screens on which she, and the rest of us, view media have proliferated. Armed with a Harvard doctorate in English literature, she championed programs as varied as “Da Ali G Show” and “Everwood,” “Friday Night Lights” and “America’s Next Top Model.” Her dismissals (don’t get her started on “Nature” or “Nova”) are as devastating as her enthusiasms are infectious. And she is really funny (viz. her novella “The Underminer,” written with the also-funny Mike Albo).

Virginia came to The Times from Slate. She wrote “Britney’s Greatest TV Moments” for VH1 and the Emmy-nominated “Matthew’s Murder,” about the Matthew Shepard case, for MTV. We like to think that she’s a magazine person at heart, though; she’s been a fact-checker for the New Yorker and an editor at Harper’s and Talk.