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Pretty big personnel news on the East-coast media elite front: David Segal, an outstanding Washington Post feature writer, is jumping to the New York Times.

Here’s the release from the Times:

From: Timothy O’Brien
Sent: Monday, November 17, 2008 3:36 PM
To: [New York Times business journalists]
Subject: BizDay Hires David Segal

Larry Ingrassia and I are pleased to announce that Business Day is hiring David Segal of The Washington Post to pursue long-form, online features built around narratives about compelling people and issues in the business world.

These enterprise stories, combining text and video, will spotl ight major players as well as creative, entrepreneurial, and groundbreaking personalities who may be floating beneath the headlines.

While having an important online component, David’s stories will also run regularly in the print edition, including the cover of Sunday Business, Business Day and the front page. He will also jump in, as needed, to help cover major running stories.

David is currently a senior Style writer for the Post, where he covers business, entertainment, music and other sundry topics he describes as “theater, Wall Street, mobsters, rap stars, hustlers, authors, New York politics, and soap operas.”

We dare you to sample his profiles of Carl Bernstein, Sopranos producer David Chase, or cons ervative financier Richard Mellon Scaife without feeling completely engaged.

David’s had the Style job since 2004. Prior to that, he covered the music industry as a business reporter and a pop critic. From 1994 to 2000 he worked for the Post’s business section, covering the law, anti-trust issues and health care.

Covering breaking news stories is a lay-up for David. Writing features is a passion and he excels at it, with great wit and sophistication.

Peter Goodman, who also came to us from the Post is a big Segal fan (ditto Michael Powell and Mark Leibovich, who also joined us from the Post).

“Nearly every assignment he takes on he manages to deliver in a fresh and su rprising way,” says Peter. “He is the consummate friend of the reader — a clear explainer, intent on seeking out narrative, with an off-beat sense of humor. David always comes back with the goods — and better and more surprising goods than other writers.”

David was born in Boston and raised in Barrington, R.I. Prior to joining the Post, he was an editor at The Washington Monthly.

He has a B.A., magna cum laude, in literature from Harvard and a second B.A., in politics, philosophy and economics, from Oxford University. He also plays drums in what he describes as “a truly unlistenable rock band with a deliberately off-putting name: Big Lunch.”

Please welcome David aboard. He starts late nex t month.

Tim O’Brien

A point or two about this release: One, Segal developed his feature chops right here, as a freelancer for Washington City Paper. Why is the Times so afraid to acknowledge that?

Two, this is kind of a big deal. As the release itself points out, the Post has sent some great talent to the Times of late. Think about this past summer, when the Times put on the street a whopping investigation of Sarah Palin‘s Alaska record, all on the muscle of three former Posties: Peter S. Goodman, Michael Powell, and Jo Becker.

Now Segal, a guy who didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

It’s unclear whether Segal jumped because of the awesome job that the Times put on the table or because of the current working conditions at the Post. The section that he writes for, Style, has been in limbo for months now. In the spring, the section’s top editor, Deborah Heard, announced she’d be taking the buyout, and she announced today that she’d be leaving in early December. Heard is wildly popular among her staff.

Yet staffers like Segal have no clue what’s coming after Heard. The future of Style is tied up in ongoing discussions over the Post‘s new world-conquering strategy, a document that is awaiting a top-to-bottom edit by the paper’s very top managers.

According to sources at the paper, it’s possible that Style will be merged with some of the Post‘s “soft” news and lifestyle sections; it’s possible that the section will suffer significant contraction; it’s possible that the section will launch a more thoroughgoing partnership with the company’s Web site, as has happened with the Sports section; and it’s possible that a staff writer highly valued by other outlets might not want to hang around till all that stuff gets sorted out.