New York Times Makes Changes in Europe

A slew of changes to some New York Times foreign desks has been announced. Pay attention now, because there are quite a few. Below are the highlights, followed by a massive Times memo that gives more details.

  • Steve Erlanger is succeeding John Burns as London bureau chief. Burns will remain chief foreign correspondent, but move on to sports coverage.
  • Alissa Rubin is departing as Kabul bureau chief to take over as Paris bureau chief. Rod Nordland will succeed her in Afghanistan.
  • Rachel Donadio is departing her role as Rome bureau chief. The Times hasn’t indicated what she’s doing next yet. Jim Yardley is replacing her.
  • Alison Smale is succeeding Nick Kulish as Berlin bureau chief. Kulish is moving on to East Africa, where he’ll cover for Jeffrey Gettleman, who is on book leave. 

And now for the note.

During his five years as our bureau chief in London, John Burns has in his ever fluent prose kept us ahead on an unending barrage of stories that resonate far and wide — the London riots, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, the Murdoch scandal, Cameron and austerity, the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee. Now, John has helped craft a new position that will allow us to tap his eclectic talents. He will remain our Chief Foreign Correspondent, based in the UK, while turning his focus to enterprising stories about the world of sports. This will include Formula 1, a lifelong passion of John’s. It will also include European football and the personalities, egos and scandals that drive world sports and that John can write about with his trademark sweep and perspective. This new endeavor will be directed by Jason Stallman of Sports as part of our upgraded international sports coverage, but foreign will still call on him to return to his global stomping grounds of the past three decades, from Kabul to Beijing and beyond, where his voice adds immeasurably to our report.

To replace John in London we will turn to Steve Erlanger. Steve has been the anchor of our Europe crisis coverage almost since the moment he stepped foot in Paris five years ago. Whether it was all-night European summitry, the missing European “Lehman” moment or the new French enthusiasm for investing in cows, Steve has told of Europe’s problems and passions with unrelenting energy. He is no newcomer to London, having served there for The Boston Globe in the 1980s, and he is the ideal candidate to cover Britain’s role in the world as it drifts further away from the crisis-ridden continent.

Our next Paris Bureau Chief will be Alissa Rubin. Alissa calls Paris her home base now, but she has spent her career at The Times, which began in 2007, on war rotations in the combat zones of Baghdad and Kabul. She is one of the leading war correspondents in the world, and she delivered some of the most memorable stories on the conflicts after slipping through checkpoints with her hair in a headscarf. Alissa’s portraits of how the half of the Iraq and Afghanistan population that is not male experienced war and its aftermath, like her award-winning piece on female suicide bombers in Iraqi prison, are milestones of modern war journalism. Just as notably, she selflessly ran safe and productive bureaus in the most dangerous conditions, earning the loyalty of her colleagues. She now has the opportunity to work where she lives and we know she will bring her wide array of journalistic skills to bear on France, the center of our revamped European operation.

In Kabul, Alissa will hand the baton as bureau chief to her longtime colleague Rod Nordland, who has agreed to stay on in Afghanistan through the winding down of U.S. combat operations there in 2014. Rod, himself a veteran of conflict stories, will ensure a smooth transition, as he and Alissa have worked closely together in managing the bureau. We are confident that Rod’s proven instinct for the most impactful, human Afghan stories will continue to distinguish our coverage there through the uncertain endgame in America’s longest war.