Sam Tanenhaus Named Editor of Times Week In Review*

Radar.com has already noted the news that Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the Times Book Review, will take over editing duties for the Week in Review section, according to an internal memo. He’ll stay on his job at the Book Review too. The outgoing editor, Katy Roberts, will join Jonathan Landman at nytimes.com.

Here’s Bill Keller’s memo:

Colleagues:

More than most sections, the Week in Review is in a constant state of ferment. As the main news pages become more analytical, the Review has to continually develop new ways to remain distinctive, finding interesting angles of entry to the week’s news without toppling over into the more opinionated writing that is the proper job of Op-ed. More than most sections, the Review depends on the ability of its editors to entice original thoughts from overworked staffers on tight deadlines, mostly in their free time, by challenging them or provoking them or engaging them.

For five years and change, Katy Roberts and a terrific supporting cast have kept the Week in Review sharp and surprising. Her breadth of knowledge and range of interests; her ability to ask the intriguing question that makes the beat expert come at a subject fresh; and her impatience with the merely okay make her an editor that reporters (I can testify from personal experience) are glad to work with.

For her next act, Katy will be joining Jon Landman in the expanding experiment that is Nytimes.com.

Katy’s first mission will be to vastly enlarge the ambition of our Topics Pages by designing a way to open them, selectively, to expert outside contributors. The idea is to recruit and cultivate a network of credentialed outsiders to stretch our resources far beyond anything we’ve done before to turn our Topic Page menu into an unimaginably rich reference source.

There’s no blueprint here, so it will be up to Katy to assemble the network, construct a system for managing and supporting them, figure out (with a little help from her friends) how to build the right tools and develop the right standards. As one of her colleagues put it, it’s about developing the ideas community. At first, she’ll spend some time with John O’Neil’s merry band, constructing pages herself and working with others in the newsroom. She’ll study at the feet of product specialists and technical people. Then she’ll invent.

And in keeping with the laboratory tradition of the Week in Review, we’ve come up with something completely different for that section.

In January, Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the Book Review, will expand his responsibilities to include the Week in Review.

Under Sam’s leadership, the Book Review has been replenished. He, with a strong cast of TBR veterans and sharp recruits, has enlarged the review in size and influence. He has restored the big cover review, enlisted a sterling cast of writers, rejuvenated the best seller list (in large part by adding Dwight Garner’s column), introduced more reporting and livelier debate, overseen a complete redesign, and pushed aggressively onto the Web. He has also found time to write, brilliantly, for his section — and for the Magazine and, yes, the Week in Review — and to curate an on-line reading group on the review’s website, among other things. I can’t wait to see what creative energy he will bring to the continual reinventing of the Week in Review.

Oh, by the way: Who was the astute talent-spotter who first brought Sam Tanenhaus to the NYT? Katy Roberts, when she was editor of the Op-ed page.

Nobody should mistake this for a diminution of enthusiasm for either the Book Review or for the Week in Review. Quite the contrary. Both are and will remain, undiminished, franchise sections of The New York Times. This new configuration would be unimaginable if Sam was the kind of editor who made himself indispensable to every assignment, who vetted every line of copy, who hoarded the responsibility. But he is a leader who — as his Book Review colleagues will attest — surrounds himself with tremendously capable people, sets a direction, and backs off. Editors under Sam stretch and grow. (Ask Dwight, or Bob Harris.) At the Week in Review, as at the Book Review, Sam will have talented collaborators — beginning with the matchless Dave Smith, whose role will grow in the new arrangement. They are in for a treat, and readers are, too.

Cheers,

Bill

 

*This post has been edited from an earlier version.