There was no honeymoon for Howell Raines, the new executive
editor of The New York Times . Six
days after taking over for Joseph Lelyveld on Sept. 5, Mr. Raines -the paper’s
hard-charging former editorial-page editor and Washington bureau chief-was
tossed into directing The Times ‘
coverage of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and mobilizing
hundreds of reporters around the world.
“It’s such a tragic story
that I’m always reluctant to talk about it in personal terms,” Mr. Raines said.
“I live downtown, and as I left the house, I could see the south tower
But, the new Times boss
said, “my own personal feeling was that the 37 years of newspapering that I
have done had prepared me for this challenge, and I’ve tried my best to meet
And now, as the action moves overseas from Manhattan to faraway
reaches like Islamabad, Kabul and Peshawar, Mr. Raines-like many of his media
colleagues-is aggressively shuffling his staff, rearranging editors and trying
to decide how best to cover the U.S. military response and its fallout.
Already, Pakistan and Afghanistan have become mild media
carnivals, invaded by TV gangs and a
talented if curious blend of print reporters ranging from hard-boiled war
veterans to pure rookies-reporters who just a month ago were covering beats
like cops and the environment, and now find themselves in a dangerous, faraway
The Times , with its
dominant position in the American media, its still-sizable foreign bureaus and
its ability to spend money, has emerged as an early pace-setter. A few stars
have already emerged from the paper: New Dehli co-bureau chief Barry Bearak,
who was already in Kabul on September 11, covering the trial of foreign aid
workers accused of proselytizing Christianity (he’s since come back to Pakistan
after the Taliban expelled all Western journalists); John F. Burns, the senior
correspondent and two-time Pulitzer winner for his coverage of the Taliban’s
rise to power in Afghanistan in the mid-1990′s as well as the Bosnian War; and
David Rodhe, a Pulitzer winner himself in 1997, for his coverage of the siege
of Srebrenica for The Christian Science
Mr. Rohde’s rise is emblematic of how this growing war has
instantly changed careers and profiles. At The
Times , he has primarily served as a reporter on the Metro staff, though he
did go to Kosovo for the paper to cover the conflict between NATO and
Yugoslavian forces. But as of Oct. 9, Mr. Rohde was the only Times reporter still filing from
under-siege Afghanistan, having crossed into the country on Sept. 25 from
“He’s a guy who’ll crawl into any hole other reporters are afraid
to go into,” said one of his colleagues.
The Times also has
Celia Dugger, who is the other New Dehli co-bureau chief and is married to Mr.
Bearak, and Douglas Frantz in Pakistan reporting from Islamabad and Quetta.
Veteran war correspondent John Kifner is expected to begin reporting from
Another rising wartime star at The Times may prove to be C.J. Chivers, who as of late has been reporting
from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where U.S. forces have been gathering. Until
recently, Mr. Chivers, 36, had been a reporter on the Metro desk, covering the
cop beat and homicides. But now, because of his personal background-a former
Marine captain, Mr. Chivers saw combat in the Persian Gulf War before attending
journalism school at Columbia and doing a stint at the Providence Journal -he’s become a valuable overseas asset, trying to
help The Times ‘ military coverage.
Also overseas is Rick Bragg, the folksy, Pulitzer winner who acts
as a roaming national correspondent for The
Times , and had driven from Chicago on Sept. 11 to cover the aftermath of
the World Trade Center attack. Mr. Bragg put in a special request to Mr. Raines
to go overseas, and it was granted, even though Mr. Bragg was primarily known
as a chronicler of the American South, and for writing lyrical accounts of
domestic sagas like Timothy McVeigh’s execution and the battle over Elian
Gonzalez. On Sept. 29, he filed his first story from abroad, with a Karachi,
Mr. Raines said there was a conscious effort to give a new group
of reporters combat reporting experience-so that over the long term, The Times has seasoned veterans on
“I was Washingon editor when the Gulf War broke out, and we
realized at that time that most of our great Vietnam correspondents-Charlie
Moore and Gene Roberts and any number of people I can name-were no longer at a
stage in their career when they were going to be war correspondents again,” Mr.
Raines said. “Part of the logic here is to send people who are either by
experience already qualified for this kind of reporting or by inclination ready
to gain this kind of experience.”
At the same time, Mr. Raines pointed out that Mr. Rohde and Mr.
Bragg both had reported in dangerous environments-Mr. Rohde in the Balkans, Mr.
Bragg in Central America and Haiti. And in the case of Mr. Chivers, Mr. Raines
said that even before The Times hired
him, he had thought that his military experience would likely qualify him as a
“I was involved in introducing him to the newsroom hiring system
when I was still on the editorial page because I had been a judge in a
competition he won, and I noticed that he was a former Marine captain who had
been in the Marine Corps for eight years,” Mr. Raines said, “and I remember
thinking at the time, this guy would be a valuable person to have on the staff,
in addition to his many talents as a journalist, but I could see him as a
Pentagon correspondent or as a war correspondent.”
Mr. Raines said that he had not spoken to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger about the financial costs of its
But personnel-wise, there continues to be an immense shake-up at
the paper. Douglas Jehl, who covered the environmental beat from the paper’s
Washington, D.C., bureau, was reassigned to Cairo, where he previously spent
four years. So was Susan Sachs, another Cairo correspondent who has also
covered the immigration beat for the Metro desk. Chris Hedges, who covered
Bosnia and Kosovo but had returned to New York, is off to Spain to cover
diplomatic discussions in Europe. Ian Fisher has left Warsaw for Jerusalem,
where he joins James Bennet, himself a newcomer there. London bureau chief
Warren Hoge is now in Kuwait.
Domestically, there has been significant reshuffling, too, as
reporters who have not been sent overseas find themselves doing investigative
work related to the terrorist attacks and potential future threats. At least 20
reporters, including Ben Weiser and Katherine Finklestein from the Metro desk,
Ray Bonner and Elaine Sciolino from Washington, and David Firestone and Jim
Yardley from the national desk, have been enlisted to work on an investigative
unit headed up by Stephen Engelberg and Washington bureau chief Jill Abramson.
That unit is being coordinated by Michael Oreskes, who was, until recently,
helming The Times ‘ advances into
Another huge issue for The
Times in the wake of the attacks has been editorial organization. Old
newsroom divisions-foreign, national, Washington (which is not a formal desk,
but in many ways acts like it is), and Metro-have been blurred, since the story
crosses so many traditional lines. The
Times has compiled much of its post-attack coverage in a separate section
entitled “A Nation Challenged,” the contents of which doesn’t have a formal
editor and is largely shaped by Mr. Raines and other high-level editors.
“This story is bigger and more complex than others we’ve
confronted in recent times,” said Ms. Abramson. “The desks all have to know
what they’re all doing so you don’t overlap, but most of all so that you can
maximize for the stories the collective knowledge at the paper both out in the
country, in Washington and abroad.”
Of course, all of this is occurring right on the heels of Mr.
Raines’ own promotion. Newsroom sources said that since the attacks Mr. Raines
has been regularly involved in the daily details of the paper’s management-an
approach that makes sense for covering a crisis, but one they figure will last
for the foreseeable future.
Mr. Raines called this interpretation “simplification,” but he
did say that he’s been meeting with his masthead colleagues more frequently
since he started as executive editor. This is in addition to the paper’s
twice-daily Page 1 meetings, where section editors pitch stories from their
desks for the front page.
“The first thing that happened to me when I worked on the
editorial board was that I became very comfortable working in a collegial
environment with a lot of joint decision making,” Mr. Raines said. “So, the
first thing I did [as executive editor] was I set up a daily meeting of the
masthead at 10:30.” He added, “It gave the desk heads a chance to get their
lineups in order without anyone looking over their shoulder.”
The view from below was slightly different. Times staffers said that since Sept. 11, Mr. Raines has clearly
been the go-to man in charge.
“The section editors can’t really tell us what’s going on,” said
one Times reporter, who thought the
desk editors had lost some authority. “There was a decentralization under Joe,
and I think under Howell, it’s becoming more centralized.”
But Times sources also said that Andrew Rosenthal has particularly
stood out in the crowded ranks of assistant managing editors. Referring to Mr.
Rosenthal’s close work with Mr. Raines and new managing editor Gerald Boyd, one
source said, “He’s instantly become the No. 3 guy at the paper.”
Not surprisingly, among reporters at The Times , competition for stories is brisk, and Page 1 competition
Mr. Raines acknowledged that reporters might see the current
story as a career-making opportunity, but said that it didn’t affect his
editing. “My concentration is putting out the best possible paper,” he said.
“The political dynamic may exist in other people’s minds, but it’s not in my
But at least among the paper’s editorial managers, office
politics have been few. “When you’re in
the middle of the thing, because this is the biggest story any of us have
covered, management structure is not foremost in your mind,” said Jonathan
Landman, the Metro editor. “Figuring out what the hell is going on and trying
to get stories in the paper is what’s on your mind.”
Outside of The Times ,
the New York–based media overseas is an odd mixture of far-flung scribes, war
vets, adventurers and fortuitous wanderers. To date, the city’s other two
dailies, the Daily News and the Post , have not sent their own staffers
into the fray, though that may change. Time
and Newsweek have each mobilized
numerous reporters and are signing up local ones close to the action. Vanity Fair is planning to dispatch-look
out, Osama-Christopher Hitchens as well as The
Perfect Storm ‘s Sebastian Junger, an accomplished war correspondent
Here’s a summary of assignments thus far.
New York Daily News :
Did not have anyone on the ground as of yet in Afghanistan or Pakistan-to date,
the News has relied upon wire service
coverage of events overseas-but a spokesman said the paper is working out the
details of getting a reporter to the area. ( U.S.
News & World Report, which is also owned by News owner Mortimer Zuckerman, has a small team in the region who
may feed reporting to the News ).
The New York Post : Also
has relied on wire reports; the paper’s publisher, Ken Chandler, declined The Observer ‘s request for an interview.
Newsweek : A
spokesperson for the magazine did not want to get into specifics of who and
where these people were. Currently in Pakistan, however, are Josh Hammer, who
since the beginning of this year has been the Jerusalem bureau chief; Chris
Dickey, the Paris bureau chief who also edits coverage of the Middle East who
in the past has covered the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center and the Gulf
War; and Rod Nordland, a correspondent-at-large, who has mostly covered the
conflicts in the Balkans, but who has also traveled to Afghanistan, Pakistan
and Iraq in recent years.
Time : Like Newsweek , Time didn’t want to get into specifics. Moscow correspondent Paul
Quinn-Judge traveled to northern Afghanistan to report on the Northern Alliance
forces. Time is also using reporting
from Kamal Hyder, who has been on CNN (which, like Time , is owned by AOL Time Warner) several times before and after
the Sept. 11 attacks. Described as a “Pakistani journalist,” he was on the
phone to CNN during the Oct. 7 military operations. Time is also drawing on the reporting of Rahimullah Yusufazi,
another Pakistani journalist, who interviewed Osama bin Laden in December 1988.
Vanity Fair : The
magazine was looking to get both Mr. Hitchens and Mr. Junger into Afghanistan.
In addition, Janine di Giovanni, who has written two pieces from Kosovo for the
magazine, was headed for Pakistan.
The New Yorker : John
Lee Anderson, who usually lives in southern Spain, was sent to Tajikistan to
try to get into Afghanistan to cover the Northern Alliance. Writers Isabel
Hilton and Joe Klein are trying to figure out where to go next in the area of
Afghanistan. The New Yorker ‘s Jeff
Goldberg also went to Cairo to write about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and
is now in Germany trying to figure out where to go and what to write next.
Talk : A spokeswoman
said that the magazine is not sending any of its staff writers, but is
contracting with journalists who are already in Pakistan to cover the conflict.