August 16, 2022

Abramson to Replace Keller as The Times’s Executive Editor

As managing editor since 2003, Ms. Abramson has been one of Mr. Keller’s two top deputies overseeing the entire newsroom.  Her appointment was announced on Thursday by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the paper’s publisher and the chairman of The New York Times Company.

 Ms. Abramson, 57, said that as a born-and-raised New Yorker, she considered being named editor of The Times to be like “ascending to Valhalla.”

“In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion,” she said. “If The Times said it, it was the absolute truth.”

 The move was accompanied by another prominent management shift at The Times. Dean Baquet, the Washington bureau chief, will become the new managing editor, marking the first time in eight years that the paper’s top newsroom positions have turned over. He was previously the editor of The Los Angeles Times.

The appointments are effective Sept. 6. John M. Geddes, 59, will continue in his role as managing editor for news operations.

Mr. Keller, 62, who ran the newsroom during eight years of great journalistic distinction but also declining revenue and cutbacks throughout the industry, said that with a formidable combination in place to succeed him, he felt it was a good time to step aside.

“Jill and Dean together is a powerful team,” he said. “Jill’s been my partner in keeping The Times strong through years of tumult. At her right hand she will have someone who ran a great American newspaper, and ran it through tough times. That’s a valuable skill to have.”

Mr. Sulzberger said he accepted Mr. Keller’s resignation “with mixed emotions.”

“He’s been my partner for the last eight years,” Mr. Sulzberger said in an interview, adding that the decision to leave was entirely Mr. Keller’s. “He’s been an excellent partner. And we’ve grown together. If that’s where his heart is and his head is, then you have to embrace that.”

Ms. Abramson will be the first woman to be editor in the paper’s 160-year history. “It’s meaningful to me,” she said of that distinction, adding, “You stand on the shoulders of those who came before you, and I couldn’t be prouder to be standing on Bill’s shoulders.”

 Her selection is something of a departure for The Times, an institution that has historically chosen executive editors who have ascended the ranks through postings in overseas bureaus and managing desks like Foreign or Metropolitan.

 Ms. Abramson came to The Times in 1997 from The Wall Street Journal, where she was  a deputy bureau chief and an investigative reporter for nine years. She rose quickly at The Times, becoming Washington editor in 1999 and then bureau chief in 2000.

 “Without question, Jill is the best person to succeed Bill in the role of executive editor,” Mr. Sulzberger said. “An accomplished reporter and editor, Jill is the perfect choice to lead the next phase of The Times’s evolution into a multiplatform news organization deeply committed to journalistic excellence. She’s already proven her great instincts with her choice of Dean Baquet to serve as managing editor.”

 Mr. Keller asked her to be his managing editor in 2003
as he assembled a team he hoped would restore confidence in the paper after the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal. Ms. Abramson had been part of a group of editors who clashed with Howell Raines, the executive editor who was forced out after Mr. Blair’s fraud was revealed.

Ms. Abramson stepped aside temporarily from her day-to-day duties as managing editor last year to help run The Times’s online operations, a move she asked to make so she could develop fuller, firsthand experience with the integration of the digital and print staffs.

Mr. Baquet’s career has included reporting and editing jobs at some of the country’s largest newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune and The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. He was national editor for The New York Times before leaving to become managing editor of The Los Angeles Times in 2000. He became that paper’s editor in 2005’ but left in 2006 after his efforts to resist further cuts to the newsroom strained relations with the paper’s owners.

Soon after he left Los Angeles, The New York Times named him Washington bureau chief. In his new role, he said, he will work closely with the paper’s editors.

“The way I see the job is being chairman of the board for department heads, and working with them to shape the news,” Mr. Baquet said. “I plan to spend a lot of time on the newsroom floor.”

Mr. Baquet, 54, who was often perceived as Ms. Abramson’s top rival for the executive editor’s job, said he had a collaborative relationship with the new editor, not a competitive one.

  “Jill played a big role in bringing me back to the paper after I unceremoniously left the L.A. Times,” he said. “I always thought the competitive thing was too overblown. It was too easy a story line. For the last four years, she’s been my boss. And she’s my friend. Of course we can work together.”

As for Mr. Keller’s plans, he said he was still working out the details of a column he will write for the paper’s new Sunday opinion section, which will be introduced later this month. He did rule one project out. “I won’t be writing a book about The New York Times,” he said.

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