NBC News Digital Politics Team Will Now Be Led by Senior Editor Liz Johnstone

By A.J. Katz 

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NBC News is promoting Liz Johnstone to the role of senior digital politics editor. In this role, Johnstone will now oversee the network’s entire digital politics team, taking over for assistant managing editor of politics, Gregg Birnbaum, who is departing the company.

Birnbaum joined NBC News in early 2017, not long after Donald Trump‘s presidential inauguration. He came from CNN and wrote for Politico before that.

In a note to staff announcing the moves, NBC News global head of digital news Catherine Kim said of Birnbaum, “Gregg’s impact on the growth of our site cannot be overstated. He joined four years ago, a few months after Trump’s stunning victory, and hit the ground running, assembling a talented and hard-working staff and setting its path.”

Johnstone had been Birnbaum’s lieutenant, for all intents and purposes.

Regarding Johnstone’s promotion, Kim wrote: “She brilliantly organized most of the major events surrounding the election (drawing on her work leading our election coverage in 2016), from debates to conventions, Election Night to inauguration. The stunning election pages that drew millions of readers to our site every day for a week were the results of months of preparation and collaboration between Liz and her colleagues in product and at the Decision Desk.”

Here’s the rest of Kim’s internal memo:

As some of you already know, Gregg Birnbaum, who led the Digital Politics team with insight, verve and so much energy through two impeachments, every swerve and bump of the Trump years, and a presidential race that started immediately after the midterms, has decided to set aside his battered press card and become a private citizen next month. Liz Johnstone, who has worked closely with him that entire time and has played a huge role in the growth and development of the team, will become senior politics editor and lead the team upon Gregg’s departure.

 

For those who were here in 2016, as we set out to rebuild digital with a tiny team, we know this at our core: Gregg’s impact on the growth of our site cannot be overstated. He joined four years ago, a few months after Trump’s stunning victory, and hit the ground running, assembling a talented and hard-working staff and setting its path. Drawing on instincts honed at Politico, CNN and two New York tabs, he made sure NBC News never missed a breaking story, never stumbled in covering a big race, and excelled at doing big enterprise pieces that fully explained what was happening on the ground. He made sure stories were crisp and lively, and that headlines and alerts drew readers in. He also zealously — OK, obsessively — focused on traffic and audience growth. No one took more pride in seeing us grow and seeing our reporting skyrocket. Though he rarely seemed to take a day off (except for a few vital trips to Las Vegas), he never lost his drive or the good cheer that made all the craziness so enjoyable. He organized our pools on the Oscars and the Super Bowl, recalibrated his countdown clock to the next big political event and finally Election Day, volunteered to cut all our office birthday cookie cakes, and for all these things and more, we will miss him every day. His imprint and work ethic are etched into our site.

 

But we will not be at a loss for political leadership. So much of Gregg’s success — as he is the first to acknowledge — is due to his partnership with Liz, who worked closely with every reporter and editor on the team and improved every story she touched. She brilliantly organized most of the major events surrounding the election (drawing on her work leading our election coverage in 2016), from debates to conventions, Election Night to inauguration. The stunning election pages that drew millions of readers to our site every day for a week were the results of months of preparation and collaboration between Liz and her colleagues in product and at the Decision Desk. She oversaw countless political live blogs and fact-checked every fact check. And she has been a terrific ambassador across platforms and every section within digital, generating partnerships and helping interns and embeds to make their mark with a published story.

 

We may not be able to celebrate Gregg and Liz in the style we would prefer, but we will have a few weeks left to thank and congratulate them both. Please join us in doing so.

 

— Catherine and David

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