The Big Newspapers Search for New Top Editors

Sarah Ellison in the Washington Post: “Wanted: New top editors for American newsrooms in a highly uncertain time.  A generational turnover at The Post and L.A. Times—and likely the New York Times—exposes major challenges for the media business.”

From the Post story:

“The departure of a top editor has historically been a tumultuous time in newsrooms, especially for those devoted to daily journalism. In past generations, it could involve a showdown between a paper’s most ambitious talents, with room for only one to ascend, followed by a months-long reshuffling down through the middle ranks.

“Yet the generational turnover happening now comes as the obvious pool for top managerial talent has shifted — with many of these papers said to be chasing the same candidates — at a time these once-coveted jobs have become more challenging than ever. . . .

“The challenges include the demands of running newsrooms that have become 24/7 multiplatform entities; diminished trust in the mainstream media; the pandemic’s brutal impact on already shrinking advertising revenue; and concerns that the end of Donald Trump’s presidency will lessen readers’ interest in the news.

“But publishers assessing the next generation of editors willing to tackle these challenges are coming up against limited horizons: Some of the industry’s most promising stars abandoned journalism as the industry grappled with cutbacks. And the pipeline of talented managers from regional papers has slowed now that so many of those papers have weakened or folded.”

Katie Robertson and Marc Tracy in the New York Times:Washington Post, Reuters and Los Angeles Times Search for New Top Editors: In an industrywide changing of the guard, other big newsroom jobs that have come open include the No. 1 slots at Vox, HuffPost and Wired.”

In its story, the New York Times does touch on the coming change at the top of its own masthead:

“As members of journalism’s rising generation fine-tune their résumés, they are keeping an eye on a possible change at The New York Times as its executive editor, Dean Baquet, approaches the paper’s usual retirement age of 66 for newsroom leaders and top executives. Mr. Baquet turned 64 in September, and there has been a recent flurry of promotions among the newspaper’s editors.”

The New York Times wraps up its story this way:

“The generation of Mr. Adler, Mr. Baquet, Mr. Baron and Mr. Pearlstine led the news business through a tumultuous period when readers switched their allegiance from print media to digital. Revenue from print advertising, once the industry’s financial engine, dropped sharply, and one in four newspapers across the country, most of them local outlets, shut down. Some legacy news organizations adapted by emphasizing digital subscribers.

“The old-guard newsroom leaders were mostly white and mostly male, and the industry has been slow to install top editors who reflect the changing population of the United States. Stacy-Marie Ishmael, a Black journalist who is the editorial director of Texas Tribune, said she got a ‘high number of calls’ in December from news organizations looking for ‘diverse’ candidates. Three outlets have more recently expressed interest, she added, declining to say which ones.

“Tina Brown, the only woman to serve as The New Yorker’s top editor and the founding editor of The Daily Beast, noted that many talented young writers and editors had left journalism for other pursuits, making it important for news outlets to broaden their searches.”
Also see “Washington Post Editor Marty Baron: From His Hiring in 2012 to His Retiring in 2021.”


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