The announcement today that Bill Keller would be replaced by Jill Abramson as Executive Editor at the New York Times was something of a bombshell. Keller, it seems, has been achieving a higher and higher profile lately with his columns for the Times. So what’s the story behind this? The official statement is that Keller stepped down, and his boss Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the paper’s publisher, accepted his resignation “with mixed emotions.” But is there more to it than that?
The official word is that this was completely Keller’s decision, and “with a formidable combination in place to succeed him, he felt it was a good time to step aside.” Fine. Could be the truth, and that’s it. Then again, could be more to it. The NYT may very well have another round of newsroom cuts coming down the road—declining print ad revenue will not be replaced by online ad revenue (or paywall revenue), so eventual cutbacks are inevitable. Keller’s already presided over one major round of newsroom layoffs. Maybe he just didn’t want the heartache of doing another
Another question is: how long has Keller wanted to leave? In a recent Esquire interview with Keller, it seems that he may have thought he would be working the job for much longer.
Scott Raab: “Do you see yourself doing this job in five or ten years?”
Bill Keller: Obviously, I serve at the pleasure of the publisher [Arthur Sulzberger Jr.], so he gets a say in how long I stay.
SR: He adores you, no?
BK: Arthur and I have, I think, developed a great deal of trust and mutual respect. When I started out in this job, we didn’t know each other all that well. Which is probably why he didn’t pick me the first time around. As time goes on and I look around the country, I can’t see another publisher on earth that I’d trade him for.
Keller’s future plans are that he is working out the details of a column he will write for the paper’s new Sunday opinion section. He is currently writing a column for the Times Magazine. Will that continue? The Observer writes:
As for Mr. Keller’s Sunday column in the Times Magazine, which had been the source of most of the recent criticism of Mr. Keller, editor Hugo Lindgren told the Observer, “I just heard the news myself. I expect nothing will change, that’s my hope.” Then he dashed off to the Ms. Abramson’s introductory meeting.