Bill Keller, The New York Times executive editor who steered the paper for eight years following the Jayson Blair scandal, a severe recession that devastated newspapers, a metered paywall and the battle over newspapers’ print and digital future, will step down and will be replaced by Jill Abramson. Dean Baquet has been named managing editor; both appointments are effective September 6. Keller will continue to write regularly for both The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) Magazine and the new Sunday opinion and news section, The Sunday Review, set to launch on June 26.
In a statement, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company and publisher of the NYT, said: “Bill came to me several weeks ago and told me that he felt the time had come for him to step down from the role of executive editor. “I accepted his decision with mixed emotions. I’m truly grateful for the outstanding job he has done leading our newsroom for the past eight years, and I’m delighted we’re not losing him. Those of us at The Times will continue to benefit from his solid judgment, wisdom and insights, and our readers will once again benefit from hearing his powerful voice on a wide range of issues.”
Abramson has been managing editor of the NYT for eight years as well. She joined the paper in September 1997 and became Washington editor in 1999. In 2000, she was named Washington bureau chief. She moved to New York as managing editor in 2003. Before that, Abramson worked for The Wall Street Journal, where she was deputy Washington bureau chief and an investigative reporter from 1988 to 1997.
Most notably, Abramson will be the first NYT executive editor who has actually written for the website and was part of the decision to create the series of blogs on the NYTimes.com site over the last three years. As per her personal request, Abramson also assisted in running online editorial last year for a six month period to increase her experience and understanding. Beyond that, it goes without saying that she happens to be the first female executive editor in the NYT’s 160-year history.
Over the last few weeks, Keller has clearly enjoyed tweaking digital partisans over what he perceived to be the higher value of print-based, original reporting and the aggregation-oriented link culture of blogs and the web. He seemed to particularly relish a running battle with Arianna Huffington over the issue, which he started. (Arianna fired back against Keller’s aggregation screed, charging that he was guilty of “aggregating” and idea she had formed.)
A recent column sparked a debate between Keller and NYT tech writer Nick Bilton. This Is Your Brain on Twitter, a defense of the micro-blog from Bilton, was written in response to his boss Bill Keller’s The Twitter Trap, an expression of anguish over whether it was a good idea for the NYT executive editor’s 13-year-old to join Facebook.
Keller posted his own retort to Bilton’s piece in an updated version, starting off with a tongue-in-cheek “You’re fired.” He then continued to clarify his argument, saying, “My column does not advocate that Twitter be censured, censored, abandoned or ignored, even if any of those things were feasible. Twitter and Facebook are ingenious devices, and they happen to be wonderful tools for disseminating (and, up to a point, helping to create) great journalism, about which I care mightily.” Release