L.A. Times Names Dean Baquet as Top Editor

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 21, 2005

Dean Baquet was named yesterday as editor of the Los Angeles Times, which becomes the largest American newspaper ever to be led by a black journalist.

Baquet, 48, now the managing editor, moves up after the unexpected resignation of John Carroll, who is stepping down amid widespread newsroom nervousness about budget cutbacks imposed by the parent Tribune Co.

"I'm ready and I'm excited," Baquet said. "My goal is to make the L.A. Times the best paper in the country. . . . I expect there will be more belt-tightening. Obviously since I'm taking the job, I believe it's not going to keep us from continuing to get better."

Said Times columnist Steve Lopez: "There's disappointment that John is leaving and relief that Dean is taking over. Given the endless looming concerns about rumored budget cuts even in a time of huge profits, one would hope the powers that be in Chicago understand they will have a first-rate and profitable newspaper only so long as they support one."

Carroll, 63, did not dispute that "pretty heavy" budget pressures weighed on him. "I can't say I'm not concerned about financial pressures, but that was only one of a number of factors in my thinking," he said.

Baquet, who was national editor of the New York Times when Carroll tapped him five years ago, said it was "humbling" for a black journalist who began as a police reporter on the old New Orleans States-Item to take over the country's second-largest metropolitan daily. But, he said, "I like to believe I would have become editor of the L.A. Times once I went to work with John regardless" of race.

Among other major newspapers, African American editors include Gregory Moore, of the Denver Post; Kenneth F. Bunting, at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; and Michael Days, of the Philadelphia Daily News.

Baquet declined to detail a recent round of budget meetings with Tribune executives in Chicago. In light of his pending promotion, he said, "it was perfectly reasonable for them to want to sit down and get a sense of what I was about."

Current and former colleagues speak highly of Baquet. "Dean is a highly demanding, high-metabolism guy to work for," said Washington bureau chief Doyle McManus. "He's on the phone with us five times a day. We're humiliated three or four times a week by the fact that he's thought up better Washington stories than we have."

New York Times editor Bill Keller said: "Dean's a prince -- a world-class investigator, an inspiring editor and a barrel of fun." But Keller said he hoped Baquet would start "fighting fair" in luring staffers: "He has this habit of telling recruits there's something in the New York water that makes your penis fall off."

Kevin Roderick, a former Times reporter who writes the Web site LAObserved, called Baquet "the popular choice by acclaim across the newsroom. If he had left, as people feared he was thinking of doing, it would have been a huge morale blow."

In corporate terms, Carroll, who ran the Baltimore Sun before heading west, would be described as a turnaround artist. When the Tribune Co. tapped him in 2000 after buying the newspaper, the Times was reeling from a scandal over sharing ad revenue with the Staples Center, the subject of a special magazine issue. Carroll and Baquet restored the newsroom's independence and led the paper to 13 Pulitzer Prizes, an extraordinary haul.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company