Dean Baquet, Jill Abramson, and Bill Keller. (Photo: New York Times)

Jill Abramson, managing editor for news for The New York Times, will succeed Bill Keller as executive editor, becoming the first female executive editor in the newspaper’s 160-year history, The Times announced Thursday morning. The appointment is effective Sept. 6.

Keller, who has been executive editor since 2003, is returning to writing full time.

After the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., made the announcement to staff members crowded onto the third floor of the newsroom, Abramson said the appointment was like “ascending to Valhalla.”

For a number of years, Abramson, a former investigative reporter and Washington bureau chief, had been widely considered a candidate for the job when Keller stepped down. Among other contenders believed to have been in the running for the position was Dean Baquet, the newspaper’s Washington bureau chief and former editor of The Los Angeles Times. Baquet was named managing editor for news. John Geddes, who has been managing editor for operations, will continue in that post.

“Without question, Jill is the best person to succeed Bill in the role of executive editor,” Sulzberger said. With him, she steered the newsroom through one of the most challenging periods in recent history, both economically and culturally.

“Over the past year, she has immersed herself in our digital strategy and led the effort to fully integrate the newsroom. This Web integration has made us a better news organization, able to maintain our high journalistic standards while adjusting our approach to the dissemination of news.

“An accomplished reporter and editor, Jill is the perfect choice to lead the next phase of The Times’ evolution into a multiplatform news organization deeply committed to journalistic excellence. She’s already proven her great instincts with her choice of Dean Baquet to serve as managing editor.”

Abramson said that becoming the first woman to lead the newsroom was “meaningful to me” but added that she stood on the shoulders of women who came before her in the news organization.

One of the women she mentioned was Soma Golden Behr (left), who was the first woman to head a major news desk at The Times and rose to become an assistant managing editor.

“I am absolutely thrilled for Jill and for The Times,”  Golden Behr, who was in the newsroom for the announcement, told WVFC this afternoon. “It’s high time for a woman to hold the baton in a newsroom that’s long been filled with strong women journalists. She and Dean Baquet – and John Geddes – are a very strong team. It bodes well for the company.”

Golden Behr, who is now executive director of scholarshipplus.org, noted that at the announcement no on actually said that Abramson would be the first woman to be executive editor. “There was a good feeling in that room – great leadership for the tough years ahead,” she said, adding that there was a positive attitude from the crowd “and great pride and belief in The Times as an amazing and vital institution.”
Abramson has already proved that she can handle tough challenges. She became managing editor for news after Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd were ousted as executive editor and managing editor in the wake of a 2003 scandal in which it was revealed that a reporter, Jayson Blair, was fabricating news stories. Staff morale was low as the newspaper fought to regain its credibility.

In 2007, she was hit by a truck and suffered a broken femur and fractured hip, but continued reading the paper with a sharp eye and handling news responsibilities as she recuperated.

Now she takes over the newsroom at a time when the news industry is wrestling with the question of keeping revenue coming in even as more and more news is distributed at no charge to readers on the Internet. The Times recently added a paywall to its website, charging readers after they reach a certain number of pageviews.

 

 

 

 

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