Dean Baquet Announces Masthead Changes at The New York Times

The New York Times building

The New York Times building

Dean Baquet announced changes to The New York Times masthead today, which had been anticipated since he replaced Jill Abramson as executive editor last May.

In a not entirely unexpected shakeup, Mr. Baquet decided to retire the managing editor positon, which had been the second ranking newsroom job that he held, instead promoting senior editors Susan Chira, Janet Elder, Matt Purdy and Ian Fisher to the newly created position of deputy executive editor. Mr. Baquet also promoted design director Tom Bodkin to creative director, a position equal to the four deputy executive editors.

“As I thought about the kind of leadership The New York Times will need in these next crucial two or three years—as we grow our digital muscles while maintaining our commitment to the majesty of print—it became clear that our traditional masthead structure no longer work,” Mr. Baquet said in a memo that went out to the newsroom this afternoon.

Each deputy executive editor will be in charge of a specific area. Ms. Chira will lead the news report across platforms, Ms. Elder will be in charge of talent, operations and budget of the newsroom, Mr. Purdy will run investigations and enterprise and Mr. Fisher will oversee digital.

“In constructing this masthead I aimed to have it reflect the newsroom-wide values and functions that are important at this moment. Just as our business has been rapidly changing, our newsroom must be more nimble. Therefore I anticipate the masthead will be more fluid than in the past,” Mr. Baquet wrote. “I anticipate people moving on and off the masthead as our needs evolve, and it is important that these moves not be seen as measures of who is up and who is down, but rather as appointments aimed at keeping our journalism and our entire operation as vibrant as possible.”

In addition to these appointments, Mr. Baquet announced several other masthead changes. Graphics editor Steve Dunenes will become an assistant editor, Clifford Levy will become an associate editor and Joe Kahn will become an assistant editor for International. Larry Ingrassia, who was the business editor before joining the masthead in 2012, will retire at the end of the year.

Full memo below:

As I thought about the kind of leadership The New York Times will need in these next crucial two or three years—as we grow our digital muscles while maintaining our commitment to the majesty of print—it became clear that our traditional masthead structure no longer works.  We have too much work to do to have all the decisions made by a couple of editors in a corner office. Our goals are to get more readers, to continue to stretch the boundaries of story-telling in a mobile world that allows us to do things we never imagined, to take on ever larger targets with our investigative reporting, and to expand our ability to cover a world in turmoil.

To lead that effort I’ve decided to appoint five editors who have already proven they can run stories that take on big institutions, who have covered a world of war, and proven they can lead with humanity.

I’m retiring the Managing Editor title in favor of four deputy executive editors who are as excited about the future as I am, and I’m giving Tom Bodkin the title of Creative Director to acknowledge the broad role he plays in the newsroom and the whole company. Together this team will draw on what we have that none of our competitors can match—the depth and quality of our journalism, from on-the-ground reporting in the middle of the Ebola crisis, to the most sophisticated analysis from Wall Street, to brilliant insight into the world of art.

SUSAN CHIRA will lead the news report on all platforms. Alissa Rubin said there was no one better on the phone in a time of crisis. Susan was a historic foreign editor, who led coverage of two wars, the Arab Spring, the Japanese nuclear catastrophe and a host of other upheavals. She has proven herself a relentless competitor. She has worked on virtually every desk. And she is a tireless advocate for ambitious news coverage that distinguishes The Times.  Susan’s primary job will be to think about the daily report, on the web and in print, and along with the other deputies, to work with me on the kind of longer-term strategic news decisions that will guide coverage into the future.

JANET ELDER will manage the talent, operations and budget of the newsroom. Speaking of Alissa Rubin, Janet Elder led a military-style campaign that swept her off a mountaintop in Iraq. That’s one good example of just how Janet has created a central role in all aspects of the newsroom, always with honesty and always with an eye on the values of the Times. She has taken on the hardest jobs, working closely with the business side while serving as an advisory member of the executive committee that oversees the whole company. Janet ran our polling unit for many years, making it the best in the business.

MATT PURDY will run investigations and enterprise coverage. What has distinguished the Times is its ability to do the biggest public-service journalism, and no editor has pushed that agenda with more force and imagination than Matt. Matt has always compelled us to think big, to seek out the largest subjects worthy of the might of the Times. His staff has dug into Walmart’s corrupt activities in Mexico, food safety, terrorism, and the machinations of local and national politicians. His job will be to shepherd our most ambitious work. Big enterprise should go through Matt’s office. But he will also stay on top of the news report, looking for ways to help shape larger off-the-news enterprise.

IAN FISHER will oversee digital operations. Ian is the essence of The Times journalist. He started as a clerk under the tutelage of Bob McFadden and John Kifner, and ended up in Iraq before and after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Before throwing himself into the digital world he was under fire in African wars. He is the best person to make sure the news ambitions and creativity of our digital offerings match those of our print edition.

That is a giant job for one person. And our digital operation remains a work in progress. But there is tremendous talent in our ranks, and I’m not averse to looking elsewhere if we need to.  Expect many more changes in this area soonest.

In the meantime I’m promoting some strong editors to work with Ian to increase our digital intelligence. STEVE DUENES, our finest digital storyteller, will join the masthead as an Assistant Editor. Steve’s fingerprints have been on our most ambitious projects, and he has transformed that most traditional print department—graphics—into something else entirely.

CLIFFORD LEVY, a two-time Pulitzer winner and one of our most creative editors, will also be part of Ian’s team, as an Associate Editor, helping to craft a mobile strategy building off the journalistic success of NYTNow. He will also play a major role in thinking through the Times‘ digital strategy in the years to come. With the addition of ALEXANDRA MacCALLUM, the first digital native to join our masthead, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger’s strategy group, and Sam Dolnick’s mobile group, we have the makings of a powerful digital editing team that can lead us into the future.

TOM BODKIN will be equal to the deputy editors, and will take the more appropriate title of Creative Director. He continues to play a large role on the business side as well, but I’ve also asked him to be a bigger part of the strategic life of the newsroom, to help us think hard about what a print Times should be in the digital age even as we all reimagine our digital report. As we welcome some new names to the senior levels of the newsroom, we will be saying farewell to one of our finest leaders. LAWRENCE INGRASSIA, who led the business desk through the great financial crisis of 2008 while producing strong investigative reporting, has told me he would like to retire at the end of the year. I will say much more about Larry in a later note. But a couple of thoughts to get the ball rolling. Besides leading some of our best coverage, he brought a generation of young reporters to the Times who have made significant contributions to every aspect of our report. Most recently, he led the transformation of The International New York Times.

Beyond these changes, I am adding one more editor to the masthead. JOE KAHN will become an Assistant Editor for International. This is partly an acknowledgement that the traditional role of foreign editor has expanded dramatically. Joe oversees a vast foreign reporting staff, as well as The International New York Times and a large Chinese-language newsroom. He is also one of our finest editors, with a deep interest in the paper’s digital figure. But building an international audience is vital to our mission. While he will continue to run the desk, he will play a leading role in shaping that strategy.

So what am I trying to accomplish here?
The newsroom’s main job—and mine—is and always will be to cover the world and break big stories.  But senior editors will have to be something more—strategic leaders in shaping the future of The New York Times. We have to play a bigger role in steering the Times through the forces that are reshaping our world. We need a masthead that allows good ideas and good stories to get a fast and decisive hearing, an operation that encourages big risks, and one where the route to my office will never be blocked.

In constructing this masthead I aimed to have it reflect the newsroom-wide values and functions that are important at this moment. Just as our business has been rapidly changing, our newsroom must be more nimble. Therefore I anticipate the masthead will be more fluid than in the past. This will be true for my term and, I expect, for that of future executive editors. Some people will be given masthead jobs so they can grow and get a broader view of the Times.  I anticipate people moving on and off the masthead as our needs evolve, and it is important that these moves not be seen as measures of who is up and who is down, but rather as appointments aimed at keeping our journalism and our entire operation as vibrant as possible.