New York Post cuts longtime gossip maven Liz Smith

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Post is dropping longtime gossip columnist Liz Smith after 14 years at News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid paper, according to a statement on a website that she co-founded.

The 86-year-old Smith’s column will end on February 26, the victim of cost-cutting at the money-losing daily, according to Joni Evans on, a women’s conversation website that Smith, Evans and a group of other women created. A spokeswoman for the Post confirmed on Tuesday that Smith is leaving.

The gossip columnist is a 33-year veteran of the New York City social scene, and penned columns for the Post’s rival the New York Daily News. She also wrote for Newsday, then owned by Tribune Co and now owned by Cablevision Systems Corp.

News Corp has been trying to cut costs at all its companies, and has laid off small numbers of employees at properties such as Fox Interactive Media, home of online social network MySpace, and The Wall Street Journal.

Smith was unavailable for comment. In several media reports, she said she earned $125,000 a year at the Post.

She will contribute to, whose other members include Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for late U.S. President Ronald Reagan; comedian and actress Lily Tomlin; CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl; and actresses Candice Bergen, Whoopi Goldberg and Marlo Thomas.

Her leaving comes not long after another city institution, American food critic Gael Greene, was laid off from New York magazine after more than three decades at the magazine.

Smith’s departure is the second time in a day that the New York Post has been in the headlines. Earlier on Tuesday, Murdoch apologized in the paper for a cartoon that the Post ran that ignited protests from readers.

The cartoon showed a policeman shooting an ape -- based on a chimpanzee attack on a woman in Connecticut this month. The policeman says, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

The cartoon ran a day after U.S. President Barack Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus bill into law. The connection offended some readers who said it played on racist, historical comparisons of blacks to lower primates.

Murdoch is losing other well-known News Corp names. President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin, whom many Wall Street analysts consider the company’s most effective executive, will resign in June after 12 years on the job.

Reporting by Robert MacMillan; Editing by Gary Hill