Thursday, June 2, 2011

Major editorial changes at the NYT: Bill Keller to step down as executive editor, Jill Abramson named to post

The New York Times announced major changes to its editorial team this morning, announcing that Bill Keller will step down as executive editor to become a full time writer, to be replaced by Jill Abramson.

Abramson is a former investigative reporter and was the Washington bureau chief for the Times.
Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher and the chairman of The New York Times Company also announced that Dean Baquet, the current Times Washington bureau chief, will become the new managing editor.

Both appointments will become effective September 6.

“He’s been my partner for the last eight years,” Mr. Sulzberger said in the NYT's own story on the moves. “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.”

Abramson will become the first female editor of the Times in its 160-year history, and could bring new energy at a time of rapid changes to the newspaper publishing industry. While the NYT has been able to remain the nation's leading newspaper, at least as far as prestige is concerned, it has often acted as if it was fighting the changing world of digital publishing. The Times, for instance, was one of the first newspapers to launch an app for Apple's iPad, but that same app was widely criticized for being a half-effort, almost an obligatory effort simply to remain seen as a leader in the space.

While much of the comments about the moves will center on Abramson becoming the paper's first female editor (and that makes sense) further conversations will no doubt center on whether these moves will change the perception of the paper as one beholding to authority, or whether the changes at the top will bring a more independent, aggressive tone to the paper. The promotion of the Washington bureau chief, no matter who that would be, is not a good sign in this regard.