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Keller Blurs Line Between Writer and Executive

'NYT' editor irritates staff with new column

Jill Abramson

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It was announced yesterday that Jill Abramson would succeed Bill Keller as New York Times executive editor, making her the first woman in the paper’s history to hold the position. Now, a New York magazine piece reveals how Keller is already stirring up controversy in his new job, even before he’s left his old position behind.

Keller told Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. last month that he wanted to leave his position as executive editor in order to return to his true passion, writing, full time. It took him a year to come to the decision and all that thinking clearly made Keller antsy. He began to write for the newly redesigned New York Times Magazine when it relaunched in March.

Keller is in a precarious position. What was pitched as a column covering the goings on of world leaders morphed into media commentary, much to the chagrin of some at the Times. Keller still holds the position of executive editor and his unrelenting critique aimed at media reporters, news aggregators, and microbloggers has been seen as an affront by those whose careers at the New York Times Company revolve around new media.

Keller’s words proved so bruising as to prompt outcry from the Times’ media editor Bruce Headlam and media columnist David Carr. Despite Headlam and Carr’s concerns, Keller said he felt his handling of the topics was appropriate for igniting a discussion about the future of media. In a column last month, Keller again blurred the lines between unencumbered columnist and company executive by skewering Twitter, a site that social media gurus at the Times have been pushing reporters to embrace.

Keller will step down from his position as executive editor in July, giving him free range to write and potentially annoy as many people as he likes. Until then, small concessions will have to be made. In this regard, Keller said he agreed to convince his successor Abramson to "get twitterized."