Photo: BEImages/Gregory Pace.
Well, that was fast. After less than three years as executive editor at The New York Times, Jill Abramson is stepping down. The paper's managing editor, Dean Baquet, will act as her replacement.
The sudden news came as a shock to Times staffers, who were summoned to the newsroom at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. made the announcement. While Sulzberger, Jr. failed to divulge the specific reasons for Abramson's departure, ABC News senior Washington correspondent and former Times staffer Jeff Zeleny reports that the publisher called it "a management issue in the newsroom."
Sulzberger Jr. was far more forthcoming about the hiring of Baquet, who becomes the first African-American to lead the paper. "There is no journalist in our newsroom or elsewhere better qualified to take on the responsibilities of executive editor at this time than Dean Baquet,” he said. “He is an exceptional reporter and editor with impeccable news judgment who enjoys the confidence and support of his colleagues around the world and across the organization."
Abramson was unsurprisingly coy about her exit. "I’ve loved my run at The Times,” she said in a statement. “I got to work with the best journalists in the world doing so much stand-up journalism.”
Although the dismissal of the former investigative correspondent and Washington editor was unexpected, Abramson's tenure as The Grey Lady's chief was rocky, to say the least. Last year, a New York Magazine feature detailed a tug-of-war between Abramson and The New York Times Company CEO, Mark Thomspon, claiming that "the role of 'visionary' at the paper, traditionally held by the news chief, was now being ceded to Thompson." The story helped feed the narrative that newspapers are now controlled largely by their publishers and no longer a safe haven for long-running editors like A.M. Rosenthal, who ran the Times from 1977 to 1988. Abramson's predecessor, Bill Keller, who was also said to have grown weary of his management job, stepped down in 2011 to pursue writing.
Rumors have long persisted that Abramson was somewhat dour in the newsroom and rubbed many of her staffers the wrong way. Still, Sulzberger, Jr. did his best to thwart any notion of a rift. "This is also not about any sort of disagreement between the newsroom and the business side," he said.
Baquet is said to be very well-liked, so his hiring may be embraced by the paper's anti-Abramson faction. However, whether the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist can put his love of reporting aside and assume a managerial role remains to be seen.