The Keller ‘Living’ Memo — and Its Omission

One interesting lack from editor Bill Keller in his memo this week that announced the shuffles at the Times’ “living” sections, including the move of Barbara Graustark to an undefined “new role” after eight-plus-five years there.

Notes our source: “nowhere does Keller mention that Michael Cannell, who edited House & Home under Graustark, was also leaving (he’s going to Real Simple, where he’s taking the job of Home Editor). Mike and Barbara announced their departures on the same day (a week ago Wednesday), so Keller’s omission couldn’t be an oversight unless he pre-wrote the memo and stuck in a drawer like an obituary.”

Here’s the memo, in full:


To the Staff:

If the “living” sections of The New York Times — Dining, House and Home, Sunday Styles, Thursday Styles — can be said to have a principle author, she is Barbara Graustark. For eight years at the Home section and more than five overseeing the whole department, Barbara has nurtured and inspired our coverage of food and shelter, fashion and lifestyle. Her passion and leadership distinguished our style coverage from that of a thousand “soft” sections around the country. Under her supervision, the department has grown and flourished, produced an array of imaginative special sections, and become a reliable source of stories for the front page — 32 of them last year — and the most e-mailed list. (In the past few days alone, we had Patty Brown’s piece on communes for seniors and Ginia Bellafante’s on parents fighting the separation of twins in school. Both on A1, both reader favorites.) Barbara has brought to every expansion and redesign an eye for trends, a vast network of sources, an instinct for the new thing and the high standards of The Times.

After 13 years, Barbara is ready for new challenges. We’re working with Barbara on details of a new role that will capitalize on her deep knowledge and flawless sensibility as an editor and/or writer at large. Stay tuned. In the meantime, she has agreed to take temporary charge of the How We Live reporting pod, now resident at the National Desk. As many of you know, Dana Canedy will be departing for a few months of maternity leave, and with Barbara stepping in we can rest assured that the production of smart, original stories about the mores of 21st-century America will not slacken in the least.

With Barbara’s move, we have taken the opportunity to think about how the busy Style Department is organized, and have decided to do a little subdividing.

Trish Hall, who has brought new excitement to the Real Estate section, will also oversee House and Home and the Dining section. As a writer and editor in the Living section, as the launcher of Escapes, as an interim editor of Money and Business and in her glorious run at Real Estate, Trish has made everything she’s touched smarter and livelier. She is the perfect marriage of serious journalistic standards and inventiveness, of ideas and fun. She is also a manager of great dexterity. By consolidating these sections under her leadership, we get a single guiding intelligence behind our reporting on where we live. Trish also spent three of her six years at the Wall Street Journal reporting on the food beat, which makes her oversight of Dining a kind of homecoming.

Trip Gabriel, who is the soul of the two Styles sections, will now run them as sole proprietor. Trip has managed the extraordinary feat of putting out two sections that deal in fashion, night life, romance, fitness, shopping, beauty, lifestyle, sexual mores and all things cool — subjects that, in The Times, can sometimes flirt with self-parody. Trip has done it with the sophistication and journalistic probity Times readers expect, with enough edge to make the sections appealing to the hip and enough class to avoid appalling the unhip. (Well, most of the time. The unhip are easily appalled.) Trip has always been a creative and rigorous editor. Now he’s a department.

Best, Bill