By: Jennifer Friedlin, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Bill Keller’s appointment as executive editor of The New York Times will help calm the upheaval that has rocked the paper following a plagiarism scandal, some staff members and media experts said.
Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. announced Monday that Keller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a former Times managing editor and foreign correspondent, would permanently replace Howell Raines, effective July 30. Additional positions, including managing editor, will be filled in the coming weeks.
Raines and former Managing Editor Gerald Boyd resigned under pressure on June 5, five weeks after the discovery that reporter Jayson Blair had fabricated parts of stories and lifted material for many of his reports. Joseph Lelyveld came out of retirement to serve as interim executive editor after the scandal broke.
“This is the end of the self-absorption over Jayson Blair,” said Walt Baranger, assistant to the editor in the paper’s news technology department. “Bill will be a very steadying force.”
Addressing a packed newsroom Monday, Keller said it was time to “move on” and to get beyond the dramatic events of the past few months. “A little introspection is a tonic, but too much of it is poison,” Keller said.
During his speech, Keller also apparently sought to set himself apart from Raines, who was criticized by staffers for picking favorites and having an autocratic and overbearing management style. “The great ambition of this paper since its founding has been to report the news without fear or favor,” Keller said. “I hope to run a newsroom that is, likewise, without fear or favor.”
The 54-year-old Keller, who once described himself as a “reporter who spent his whole life swearing he’d never be an editor,” joined the Times in 1984 as a Washington correspondent. He later worked in Moscow, where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for his coverage of the Soviet Union. He also headed the Times‘ bureau in Johannesburg and became foreign editor in 1995.
Keller told The Associated Press that a sense of stability had begun returning to the newsroom under Lelyveld’s interim leadership.
“The place has calmed down a lot,” he said. “It feels like a newsroom again. People aren’t so self-absorbed as they were, and they’re getting on with their work.”
Keller said he hoped his appointment “will accelerate that process.”
Although the Times previously indicated that it would search inside and outside the paper for an executive editor, media experts said the choice of an insider would help ease the transition and restore a sense of direction.
“I do think The New York Times is of such complexity and importance that it takes a while to come up to speed,” said James Naughton, a former Times reporter and president of the Poynter Institute, a training center for journalists in St. Petersburg, Fla. “It was more logical for them to go to the bench. They have a very deep bench.”