Bill Keller, the formidable executive editor for the New York Times, has stepped down from his position and his managing editor, Jill Abramson, will succeed him effective Sept. 6, the Times announced Thursday. Dean Baquet, the current Washington bureau chief, will take over as one of the managing editors. The other managing editor will remain John M. Geddes.
Keller oversaw the paper through the tumultuous changes of the past eight years. He took over the role in 2003 after former executive editor Howell Raines left the paper in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal.
Under Keller's leadership, the Times expanded its presence online, starting digital subscriptions this year, and won 14 Pulitzer Prizes.
However, controversies also dogged Keller's tenure. Some saw Keller mishandle the situation surrounding reporter Judith Miller, who went to jail after refusing to name the source who gave her the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
In recent weeks, he's come under criticism for his new column in the Sunday magazine that has started a war with words with competitor Arianna Huffington.
He’ll become a full-time writer for the paper, “a position in which he has distinguished himself, winning a Pulitzer Prize as a foreign correspondent,” Paul Farhi writes. (See the Post’s full story of the change here.)
In a 2010 profile of Abramson, Gabriel Sherman at the New York Times wrote that Keller and Abramson did not start out close, “but they’ve become a tight team and a stabilizing force after the tumultuous Raines era.”
Abramson will become the first woman executive editor in the paper’s history, a role the profile said she was likely in the lead to inherit, even a year ago. “Among rank-and-file reporters and editors, she is both respected and feared. She can be an imperious boss, critical when she thinks the Times is falling behind competitors. In many respects, she’s more alpha than Keller, with a confidence that makes some Times people still smarting from the Raines era a little nervous.”
On Twitter, staffers reacted with excitement about the posting of the first woman to the role of executive editor and with tributes to Keller. “The room loved working for the guy,” wrote media reporter David Carr. “Fair, funny, and highly normal. Great leader and grand writer to boot.”
From the paper’s announcement on Keller’s departure:
Mr. Keller, who ran the newsroom during eight years of great journalistic distinction but also declining revenue and cutbacks throughout the industry, said that with a formidable combination in place to succeed him, he felt it was a good time to step aside.
“Jill and Dean [Baquet] together is a powerful team,” he said. “Jill’s been my partner in keeping The Times strong through years of tumult. At her right hand she will have someone who ran a great American newspaper, and ran it through tough times. That’s a valuable skill to have.”
[Publisher Arthur] Sulzberger said he accepted Mr. Keller’s resignation “with mixed emotions.”
“He’s been my partner for the last eight years,” Mr. Sulzberger said in an interview, adding that the decision to leave was entirely Mr. Keller’s. “He’s been an excellent partner. And we’ve grown together. If that’s where his heart is and his head is, then you have to embrace that.”