Dean Baquet will become the first African-American executive editor at the New York Times, replacing Jill Abramson who leaves the top position unexpectedly. The news apparently stunned New York Times staffers who did not see this move coming.
On Wednesday, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the New York Times and chairman of the New York Times Company, first told senior staff of the changing of the guard and then informed the full newsroom around 2:30 p.m., the New York Times reports.
While the reason for the change was not immediately made clear, Baquet seems a fitting choice to lead the newspaper with his being a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and a former editor of the Los Angeles Times.
"It is an honor to be asked to lead the only newsroom in the country that is actually better than it was a generation ago, one that approaches the world with wonder and ambition every day," said Baquet, who at the time of his appointment was serving as the newspaper's managing editor.
Baquet, 57, was born in New Orleans and has worked in the newspaper industry for more than 25 years, beginning in 1980 with his hometown paper, the States-Item, before it merged with the Times-Picayune, Businessweek.com reported.
In 1984, he joined the Chicago Tribune, where four years later he led a three-member team that would win a Pulitzer Prize for in-depth investigative reporting on corruption among the Chicago City Council.
According to Businessweek.com, Baquet left the Tribune in 1990 to join the New York Times and over the next decade served in several positions: first as a metropolitan reporter, then special projects editor and as a deputy metropolitan editor. He would leave a national editor position at the Times in 2000 to join the Los Angeles Times. There, Baquet served as editor and executive vice president of Los Angeles Times Communications LLC until November until 2006 when he rejoined the New York Times as chief executive of the newspaper's Washington bureau.
"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," Sulzberger said in announcing Baquet's appointment.
"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, who had been appointed to the position in 2011, was the first woman to serve at the helm of the New York Times. The reason for Abramson's abrupt departure was not made clear, with Sulzberger only attributing it to "an issue with management in the newsroom."
In a statement to the newspaper, Abramson said, "I've loved my run at the Times. I got to work with the best journalists in the world doing so much stand-up journalism."
Dean Baquet: 6 things to know
1. He's no stranger to the New York Times. Baquet, 57, was the newspaper's managing editor – a role he'd held since 2012. From 1995 to 2000, he was national editor of the New York Times. Between those two stints at the NYT, he served as editor of the Los Angeles Times.
2. He was fired from the Los Angeles Times after refusing to make extensive staff cuts ordered by its publisher.
3. He's a Pulitzer Prize winner. He earned the honor for investigative reporting (in the form of a piece on corruption in the Chicago City Council) back in 1998. He's also taken home the Peter Lisagor Award for investigative reporting and the William H. Jones award for investigative reporting.
4. He believes a great newspaper acts as a watchdog. "I think a great newspaper is, first and foremost, responsive to its readers. I think a great newspaper prints the truth. I think a great newspaper's aggressive. I think a great newspaper ... acts as the watchdog for the region that it covers ..." he said in a 2006 interview with PBS.
5. But he was once accused of blocking a story about government surveillance of Internet traffic.
6. He's hopeful about the future of journalism. Baquet said Wednesday, "It is an honor to be asked to lead the only newsroom in the country that is actually better than it was a generation ago, one that approaches the world with wonder and ambition every day. The talented journalists of the New York Times make it the greatest news operation in history and I look forward to working with them to deliver the world's most engaging and enterprising journalism."