By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Jill Abramson named to lead the New York Times

Jill Abramson

I have no particular insight into the announcement that New York Times executive editor Bill Keller has decided to step aside. But it’s big news in the media world, and it will be worth keeping an eye out to see whether there’s a story behind the story. Jim Romenesko is gathering links. It is, of course, significant that the Times’ next top editor, Jill Abramson, will be the first woman to run what is arguably our leading news organization.

Keller will write a column for the Sunday opinion section, which is being redesigned. His column for the Sunday magazine hasn’t exactly been well-received, so it’s hard to believe Keller is what we Frank Rich fans have been waiting for. But Keller is obviously a fine journalist, and he may rise to the occasion when he’s not dashing something off in addition to his other duties.

The last time the executive editor’s job changed hands was in 2003, when Howell Raines and his deputy, Gerald Boyd, stepped down following the Jayson Blair scandal. At that time Boston Globe editor Marty Baron, whose résumé included a stint as a Times editor, was considered for a top job at the Mother Ship. (Little-known fact: Keller turned down the chance to replace the retiring Matt Storin as the Globe’s editor in 2001, recommending Baron instead.)

That seems unlikely to happen this time, as Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet has already been announced as Abramson’s managing editor for news. Baquet is a former editor of the Los Angeles Times, where Baron also spent a good part of his career.

New York Times photo.

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  1. Michael Corcoran

    Someone probably needs to analyze the Keller Years. It is interesting that in the articles about his transition to editor, people emphasize the Jayson Blair scandal, and not the paper’s dismal failures on Iraq and intelligence (though, to Keller’s credit, he was in charge when the Times’ official Iraq apology/explanation was released). The use of the word torture (as Dan has blogged about) as well as the decision to withhold the release of the NSA wiretapping story until after the 2004 election are also worthy of serious analysis.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Michael: Good points, and yet the Times’ lead over all other papers has never been wider than it is today.

  2. L.K. Collins

    That, Dan, is like saying that George’s grass is a deeper brown than Bill’s in the middle of a global warming induced drought.

  3. Paul Bass

    I like Keller’s column. Important not to run it more often (and risk excessive navel-gazing).

  4. Aaron Read

    Yesterday NPR’s David Folkenflik was talking about this, and I believe it was mentioned that Abramson is the first NYT executive editor without any real international news reporting experience.

    (I was driving at the time and only half-listening, so I may have missed something, so forgive me if I’ve got something wrong here)

    I wonder if that really matters? Potentially I could see it mattering a lot, given that the NYT is one of the very few domestic papers that does any decent international news these days…although certainly there are very good international papers that are widely available in the USA. (mostly thru the web)

    OTOH, does spending a few years as the bureau chief for Lower Slobovia really make you an international news expert at the Executive Editor level? I suppose it doesn’t hurt to have the additional perspective…but really it makes you an expert on international news from Lower Slobovia. Not news from Yemen, Burma, Venezuela or Pakistan…right? Or am I wrong?

    Or does it matter more that Abramson spent several months on sabbatical learning to how to maximize digital news coverage and make it profitable? That’s probably more important to the bottom line, but is the bottom line the Executive Editor’s primary job?

  5. David Streever

    While I applaud Keller on getting rid of Deborah Solomon and her “Questions” (honestly, her questions were often times so loaded, so biased, and so rude that I really tried to un-see that feature), I have to say that the rest of his changes didn’t come across favorably.

    I appreciate the increased quantity of news and analysis in the Magazine, but much of that was already available in the rest of the paper. The magazine was a refuge from the harder news where I could read a wide variety of food writing, thought-provoking pieces on modern communications and technology, and lighter, fluffier pieces.

    The recycling of content from the weekly paper into the magazine was also quite disappointing, and made me feel as if I was getting less for my subscription.

    I hope his successor helps restore some of what made the Times magazine special and so different from the regular paper. (Perhaps a good first step is hiring back Randy Cohen–the answers by Ariel Kominer are often disappointing.)

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