Bill Keller announced in an email to The New York Times staff earlier this afternoon that Jill Abramson will be leaving her post as managing editor for six months to focus on the paper’s digital operations.
The move will help bring what Mr. Keller described as his newsroom’s digital and print “rhythms” into harmony. He also said it was Ms. Abramson’s idea to step away from her usual duties.
“It’s a radical idea in the sense that no managing editor has ever said, ‘Okay, I’m going to step aside from my job and do this other thing,’” Mr. Keller said in an interview. While Ms. Abramson already oversees the Web newsroom as part of her existing role, Mr. Keller said that they both thought that “one of us should really master the whole complicated machinery of an integrated newsroom,” and “Jill came up with the idea that one of us — i.e., her — should do a full immersion.”
Beyond working to improve the relationship between print and the web, Ms. Abramson will consult closely with the paper’s business side as it prepares to launch a paywall early next year.
While she is out of the managing editor role, Mr. Keller will rotate three editors — assistant managing editor and Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet, foreign editor Susan Chira and business editor Larry Ingrassia — through Ms. Abramson’s desk for two months each.
“At the end of these sojourns, we expect the substitutes to return to their department a little smarter and a little refreshed,” wrote Mr. Keller.
John Geddes, the paper’s other managing editor, will keep his seat.
Mr. Keller’s email to the staff:
Beginning June 1, Jill is going to take a six-month detour from the traditional Managing Editor role to run the news part of the Website and to fully immerse herself in the digital part of our world. Her aim will be to push our integration to the next level, which means mastering all aspects of our digital operation, not only the newsroom digital pipeline but also the company’s digital strategy in all its ramifications. During this time she will largely disengage from day-to-day news coverage.
We have invited three editors — Larry Ingrassia, Dean Baquet and Susan Chira — each to fill in for two months as acting Managing Editor for News. Larry will step up for June and July, Dean for August and September, and Susan for October and November.
No doubt this rotation will be widely analyzed, interpreted and speculated about. (I look forward to hearing and reading a lot of entertaining nonsense.) The real purpose is threefold: 1) to give us a chance to see some of our best editors applying their talents to the entire news report, in print and online, rather than to specific departments; 2) to give these editors a break, a digression, a cobweb-clearing, an adventure; and 3) to allow deputies in their departments to show what they can do with a couple months of greater authority and autonomy.
At the end of these sojourns, we expect the substitutes to return to their department a little smarter and a little refreshed. Jill will return to the ME job ready to guide the final lap of newsroom integration.
UPDATE: More here.