Newsroom Favorite Bill Keller Named Times's Top Editor
Keller said that in contrast to Raines's "heavily centralized" system, department heads will be "getting some of their power back. . . . People lower down on the line felt stifled. That's not the way I want to run the newsroom."
No managing editor was named to replace Gerald Boyd, who quit along with Raines in the scandal's wake. Speculation for the No. 2 job has centered on Washington Bureau Chief Jill Abramson and Jonathan Landman, the metropolitan editor, who first warned that Blair was out of control. Several sources said Keller barely knows Abramson, and one staffer said he may want to proceed cautiously by spending time with all the potential contenders.
A reserved, cerebral man who sometimes preferred to communicate with his staff through e-mail, Keller has been embraced as a calming presence.
"The feeling was just very warm, very positive," Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins said after Keller's remarks drew sustained applause. "Everyone's excited about moving forward. It's been a traumatic several months," she said, and without a successor to Raines, "there was no closure."
Sulzberger had also considered two Timesmen who left the paper, Los Angeles Times Managing Editor Dean Baquetand Boston Globe Editor Martin Baron. Metro columnist Clyde Haberman, calling Keller "hugely talented," said he was "seen as the logical and natural choice. It would have rattled us all a bit to have had an outsider come in. This is the wiser choice."
Opinion columnist Frank Rich said Keller is "a widely respected and liked figure in the newsroom, admired both as an editor and for his considerable journalistic chops. I think it signals a return to the stability and steadiness that everyone craves right now."
But Keller faces a clear challenge. "The newsroom is looking not only for a superb journalist, which he is, but a superb manager," said Business Editor Glenn Kramon.
Asked about his personal style, Keller said: "Some of that notion of reserve is justified. I'm not a socialite. My wife sometimes refers to me as socially autistic, referring to my cocktail party skills. I don't like to spend a lot of my time out playing celebrity." But the perception stems in part from having been "in a deputy job" where "you're suppressing a fair amount of yourself" because "your job is not to be a competing center of attention."
Keller was the deputy to Joseph Lelyveld, the former executive editor brought back to run the paper on an interim basis. Keller got the word Thursday when Sulzberger says he asked him "if he wanted to have a life or take over the executive editorship."
Keller had been a Times correspondent in Washington, Moscow and Johannesburg before taking over the foreign desk in 1995. When he was named managing editor two years later, he described himself as "a reporter who spent his whole life swearing he'd never be an editor."
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