Keller Wants Baquet to Return to ‘New York Times’

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By: Joe Strupp

Almost from the moment that Dean Baquet lost his job at the Los Angeles Times last fall after challenging the paper’s plans to cut staff, speculation arose that he would return to The New York Times, where he spent nearly a decade in the 1990s, rising to national editor before leaving in 2000.

There might just be something to this. Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, met with Baquet less than two weeks after he was fired and made it known he wanted him to come back to New York. “He and I had lunch and I made it clear I would love to see him back at the [New York] Times,” Keller said Wednesday, adding that Baquet was in New York at the time for a Committee to Protect Journalists dinner.

When asked what job Baquet might take, Keller declined to comment, noting “it is too early to speculate about this because I don’t know if he is coming.”

Baquet, who has remained mum about his future, declined to comment about his next job when contacted by E&P today. “I’m going to pass,” he said. When asked about meeting with Keller, he also declined to say.

Rumors among those in and out of The New York Times have included Baquet taking over the Washington, D.C. bureau, becoming a managing editor or working some yet-to-be-created assignment.

Keller said Baquet’s possible return to New York would depend, at least in part, on the future of the Los Angeles Times, which could be sold, with Baquet getting an invitation to return. Keller pointed to the uncertain future of the Tribune Company, owners of that paper, which has set today as its deadline for potential buyers to submit proposals.

“We have put things on hold until we see what happens with the auction at the [Los Angeles] Times,” Keller said about talks with Baquet. “There is at least a large part of Dean that would like to finish what he started in L.A.” Baquet had been editor of the Los Angeles Times for just over a year when he was dismissed.

Among those considering a piece of Tribune are Los Angeles billionaires Eli Broad and Ron Burkle, who submitted a proposal last fall. Those following efforts to sell Tribune have speculated that a new Los Angeles Times owner would likely consider bringing Baquet back, given his standing in the newspaper industry and his strong support from staffers.

“I think people at the L.A. Times believe that if Burkle and Broad end up with the paper there is a good chance they would end up with Dean as editor,” Keller said. “But it is out of the hands of journalists and in the hands of financial planners and the Tribune Company.”

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