One of the ironies of starting a business is that success is a drag: more work, greater pressure, higher expectations — and your finest employees get plucked away by your competitors near and far. So it is in our little neck of the journalism woods. Today I have the unfortunate task of announcing that one of the Trib's best and brightest is leaving us for what sounds like a terrific gig.

Way back when, Elise Hu was one of the first people on what Ross and I describe as the fantasy baseball draft list of prospective Trib staffers. Yes, she was a local TV reporter, but not the catastrophe-chasing kind. She was a knowledgeable student of politics whose obsession rose to the level of junkie-dom. She was dogged and fearless and innovative and fun and always hungry (sorry, inside joke). She was expert at multimedia but a very good writer and an energetic blogger. She was both old-school in her values and very 21st century in her desire to apply the tools of technology to solve the problems of the world. Naturally she became popular and visible, and when her "Stump Interrupted" series during the 2010 campaign won several major national awards, her celebrity grew.

It was inevitable that opportunities would come her way; they always do in a case like this. I could only hope that they wouldn't come this soon, but, well, ugh. A few weeks back she ducked into my office to tell me that she'd gotten a call about a plum job at NPR in Washington, D.C. Despite her assurances that she wasn't looking to make a move, I knew we were in trouble.

And so it is: Goodbye, Elise. She'll leave us in mid-February to become digital director of NPR's nascent Impact of Government project, which promises to produce excellent, public-spirited work covering state government in all 50 states. We hate to see her go, because she's been so integral to everything we've done these last 15 months, but she'll do great.

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We'll do great too. You know that saying about a door closing and another one opening? Tomorrow I'll be announcing Elise's successor — a talented, smart, energetic, creative, ambitious multiplatform reporter who's every inch a political junkie. Sound familiar? Onward we go.

Oh, as for Matt Stiles, a.k.a. the guy married to Elise? You may be wondering about his plans. So were we. Happily, I can report that while Matt will also be moving to Washington, he'll remain on the Trib staff as our data applications editor, presiding from there over the creation and publication of his amazing databases of public information, visualizations and other interactives. And he'll be the Washington correspondent we've always wanted, reporting on federal matters as they impact Texas.

I know Trib fans and friends join me in wishing Elise the best of luck — and in hoping that she and Matt make the most of the next chapter of their lives.

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