In a move so surprising that even her own newspaper is describing it as “unexpected,” Jill Abramson has stepped down as executive editor of The New York Times after less than three years in the position, the Times announced today. She will be replaced by managing editor Dean Baquet, who becomes the first African American to lead the 163-year-old paper of record.
Brian Stelter, a former Times media reporter and current CNN correspondent, quoted Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The New York Times and chairman of The New York Times Company, as telling staffers during his announcement of Abramson’s leaving, “I choose to appoint a new leader for our newsroom because I believe that new leadership will improve some aspects of the management of the newsroom. … There is nothing more at issue here.” Sulzberger later added, “This is also not about any sort of disagreement between the newsroom and the business side.”
David Gelles, a reporter for the Times’ DealBook section, tweeted out a picture of a “stunned newsroom” being given the news.
Stunned newsroom. pic.twitter.com/dooXpAHJoR
— David Gelles (@dgelles) May 14, 2014
According to reports, Abramson had butted heads with Baquet during her tenure as executive editor. About a year ago, Politico’s Dylan Byers wrote in a story (which made Abramson cry) that “in recent months, Abramson has become a source of widespread frustration and anxiety within the Times newsroom. … Increasingly, it is Baquet, not Abramson, to whom staffers turn when they’re seeking a litmus test of the Times’ future.”
Abramson, who was named executive editor in June 2011, was the first woman to hold the title at the Times. She joined the Times’ Washington bureau in 1997, and in 2003, was promoted to managing editor.
In a statement, Abramson said, “I've loved my run at The Times. … We successfully blazed trails on the digital frontier and we have come so far in inventing new forms of storytelling. Our masthead became half female for the first time, and so many great women hold important newsroom positions. Dean has been my partner in all this, and he will be a great executive editor. I thank Arthur, who has been a steadfast protector of our journalism, for the chance to serve."