Dean Baquet Returns to the Times as D.C. Bureau Chief

From: Terry Schwadron
Date: Jan 30, 2007
Subject: [NYT Newsroom] Message from BILL KELLER

Colleagues:

After guiding The Times through toxic storms and rebuilding our bureau into a dominant force in Washington coverage, Phil Taubman is returning to his first love, the correspondent’s life. Phil has chosen a new mission that capitalizes on his deep experience as a foreign correspondent, investigative reporter, military historian and editor.

He will be taking on a special reporting assignment in the area of national security; we’ve decided to be a little secretive about the details for now for competitive reasons. He will be based in California. He will also be promoted to Associate Editor–a title previously worn by one Times journalist, Johnny Apple. It signifies both Phil’s stature as a counselor to the masthead and our expectation that he will return to senior management in the future.

When Phil accepted my invitation to leave the Editorial Page masthead three and a half years ago and take over our largest bureau, he can hardly have imagined what a roller coaster ride awaited him. In the years that followed he helped the paper deal with the imprisonment of a reporter, the murder of a revered colleague, the faceoff with a hostile administration (including one tense session with the President), vilification by partisan critics, and the general anxiety of an industry in transition. His tenure also saw a succession of journalistic triumphs that shook the country and brought a shower of awards. Over the past year Phil presided over a period of ambitious rebuilding and still more ambitious journalism. He leaves behind a bureau in which a cadre of world-class bylines has been enriched by excellent new hires. He leaves behind a great editing team. And he leaves behind a bureau that has taken to heart a mandate for incisive, original, hard-hitting coverage.

And the new chief of that high-octane bureau will be Dean Baquet.

Back in 2005, when Dean moved into the top job in Los Angeles, I described him as “a world-class investigator, an inspiring editor and a barrel of fun.” It was hard to miss the subtext: “And I miss him.”

Since then he has demonstrated that, in addition to being all of those things, he is a charismatic leader, an unflinching advocate of the value and values of professional journalism, and a cool character under fire. It’s nice to have him back where he belongs, at a paper where he can devote his talents and enthusiasm fully to the practice of journalism, in a bureau that can rise to all of his expectations.

The many of you who worked with Dean before he left us in the year 2000 know what to expect from a bureau under his leadership:tough-minded, aggressive, fearless reporting, original insights, great craftsmanship and the thrill of competition. He reminds you why you got into this business, and why it matters.

Dean will take over March 5, allowing time for transition and for a little celebration of two great journalists. He will be an Assistant Managing Editor, reflecting both the depth of his experience in the upper echelons of our profession and the cross-departmental importance of the bureau.

There are undoubtedly other consequences that will follow from all of this, and I can’t begin to say what they are. But here’s one: Felicity Barringer, Phil’s accomplice in journalism and in just about everything else, will be taking her intrepid and prescient environmental reporting and beat to California — which happens to be a kind of national laboratory for environmental policy.

Cheers,
Bill