Whoa: at the tender age of 62, Bill Keller is "stepping down" as the editor of the New York Times. He's being replaced by managing editor Jill Abramson, who will become the first female NYT editor in history.
Keller is going to go back to being a writer. He says he'll have a column in the paper's newly redesigned Sunday opinion column. Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet will move up to managing editor, the papers #2 position.
Yes, it's a historical moment for the nation's most important paper. But the most interesting question here is: why? Why is Bill Keller leaving? He had a few more years before his age would have been a factor. He could have stayed on through the 2012 elections. He aspired to that job for his entire life. And he got it. He held what is still, I think, the most influential editorial job in all of the world's media. He had the power to set the news agenda for an entire nation.
And he's quitting... to write a column? He's already done that. Furthermore, he recently jumped back into writing with a NYT Magazine column, and guess what? It sucks! I mean, we even called on his editor to fire him, from the column-writing job. We didn't imagine Keller would ever give up the most powerful editorial job in America to hold onto the fucking column gig. Bill!
(No word yet on whether he'll keep the magazine column as well as the Sunday opinion column. Let's hope not.) So now, let's speculate. The official word is that this was completely Keller's decision, and "with a formidable combination in place to succeed him, he felt it was a good time to step aside." Fine. Could be the truth, and that's it. Then again, could be more to it. The NYT may very well have another round of newsroom cuts coming down the road—declining print ad revenue will not be replaced by online ad revenue (or paywall revenue), so eventual cutbacks are inevitable. Keller's already presided over one major round of newsroom layoffs. Maybe he just didn't want the heartache of doing another.
Or maybe he's just tired of all the sniping and partisan backbiting that goes with his position, and would rather have the ease of writing a Sunday NYT column, one of the most high-profile and cushiest gigs in all the media. That's reasonable. But still... strange. People just don't usually give up the job they've worked for forever, without some larger reason.
Maybe he just wants to dedicate more time to talking about the Twitter? Or maybe there was some sort of scandal. Maybe he accidentally Tweeted a picture of his dick? These things happen. In any case—welcome, Jill Abramson! If you know more about what's going on, email me.
UPDATE: And here's the newsroom memo that went out this morning:
I am writing to give all of you – news and business colleagues alike –
some news about a leadership transition in the newsroom of The Times.
Later this year, Bill Keller will step down as executive editor of our
paper. His successor will be Jill Abramson, our managing editor and
Bill's deputy during the eight years in which he ran our global news
operations. Jill has asked Dean Baquet, our Washington bureau chief,
to serve as her managing editor and he has accepted. All of this will
be effective after Labor Day.
Any change like this is both exciting and bittersweet. On the one
hand, we look forward to the new leadership and all the potential
these two extraordinarily talented journalists offer us. And on the
other, we recognize that with Bill's departure from his role, we are
losing someone who did an absolutely outstanding job in leading our
newsroom through some very difficult circumstances. We all know that
Bill is leaving to his successors a newsroom as strong as it has ever
been, and one that has shown tremendous flexibility as it expands and
moves further down the path to its multiplatform future. That is the
gift he is bequeathing to Jill and Dean and, through them, to all of
The decision to make this move was Bill's, and it will shock no one
who knows him to learn that he will return to writing the column and
the magazine pieces that he was so terrific at before he took on the
role of executive editor.
Jill is perfectly prepared to step into her new role. She brings with
her a highly focused and determined journalistic and management style,
one that has served us well. Her decision to name Dean as her deputy
gives us a well rounded and extraordinarily talented leadership team,
one that I believe will take us to even greater levels of journalistic
Please join us in the newsroom at 11:00 this morning when we will have
a bit more to add on this exciting day at The Times.