Just a couple years ago in college, I took a new class called "Online Journalism." The class was long overdue to enter the curriculum. We primarily talked about how print articles needed to be written so that they could easily be transferred to a publication's Web version. I took "Ethics" that quarter as well, taught by infamous professor John Harris. There we debated about whether or not bloggers could be considered journalists, or if we should categorize them as something new entirely.

Fast forward. Days before the iPhone announcement, major daily papers shaped their news stories around blogger speculation. Times are a'changin', and now journalists at this nation's biggest newspapers are jumping ship to a mostly-online publication focusing only on national politics, The Politico.

The New York Times reports "The Politico is finding younger journalists and some veterans β€” including John F. Harris [not my professor] and Jim VandeHei from The Washington Post, Mike Allen from Time magazine and Roger Simon from Bloomberg News β€” who are willing to leave the once-secure confines of traditional print to join a start-up."

While this may seem risky, most newspapers nationwide are facing budget constraints, declining circulation and are cutting employees. The Politico is hiring.

β€œIt seems riskier to stay in print than to go to something new,” said Ben Smith, 30, a reporter for The Daily News in New York, who will be writing a blog for The Politico about the 2008 presidential campaign.

It's not all goodwill. Prominent journalists will only leave their posts for the right price, and Allbritton Communications is writing the checks. According to the Times, "[The Politico] publisher, Robert L. Allbritton, 37, scion of the banking and media family that once owned the defunct Washington Star, said in an interview that he would finance The Politico for 'the foreseeable future' and has committed to paying for expensive campaign travel. He has hired a staff of about 50 people, almost half of them journalists."

The Politico will appear in limited print circulation and occasional broadcast, but the primarily online publication will be free in all forms, and Allbritton believes it will turn profits in fewer than five years.

We'll see. Thanks to Wes for flagging this article to me.