This memo just went out to NYT staffers, informing them that managing editor Jill Abramson is stepping down temporarily in order to take a turn running the "news part of the website." Three other top editors will take turns at her job in the meantime. Bill Keller tries to preemptively dismiss the speculation that will result from this but uh, sure looks like some sort of job tryout. "OPTICS."
From: On Behalf Of Keller, Bill
Sent: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 1:11 PM
To: [NYT Newsroom]
Subject: Jill's Big Adventure
Beginning June 1, Jill is going to take a six-month detour from the traditional Managing Editor role to run the news part of the Website and to fully immerse herself in the digital part of our world. Her aim will be to push our integration to the next level, which means mastering all aspects of our digital operation, not only the newsroom digital pipeline but also the company's digital strategy in all its ramifications. During this time she will largely disengage from day-to-day news coverage.
We have invited three editors — Larry Ingrassia, Dean Baquet and Susan Chira — each to fill in for two months as acting Managing Editor for News. Larry will step up for June and July, Dean for August and September, and Susan for October and November.
No doubt this rotation will be widely analyzed, interpreted and speculated about. (I look forward to hearing and reading a lot of entertaining nonsense.) The real purpose is threefold: 1) to give us a chance to see some of our best editors applying their talents to the entire news report, in print and online, rather than to specific departments; 2) to give these editors a break, a digression, a cobweb-clearing, an adventure; and 3) to allow deputies in their departments to show what they can do with a couple months of greater authority and autonomy.
At the end of these sojourns, we expect the substitutes to return to their department a little smarter and a little refreshed. Jill will return to the ME job ready to guide the final lap of newsroom integration.