NEW YORK -- Jill Abramson didn't waste much time on her first day as New York Times executive editor before shaking up the place.
In a Tuesday memo obtained by The Huffington Post, Abramson announced a number of changes at the paper, including promoting both national editor Rick Berke and foreign editor Susan Chira to the position of assistant managing editor. That leaves a couple big jobs open at the Times. Meanwhile, Abramson said that Jim Roberts will continue to oversee the paper's digital efforts in his assistant managing editor role.
Shortly after being named Bill Keller's successor last June, Abramson told The Huffington Post that she needed to “seize the future” upon taking over the top job. While serving as second-in-command, Abramson had stepped aside for nearly six months to look closely at the paper’s digital efforts and the continuing web-print divide.
On Tuesday, Abramson reiterated her priorities concerning the paper's future. "I plan to focus my energies on two areas: “digital innovation and integration and, no surprise here, the news,” she wrote.
Read Abramson's memo below:
I couldn’t be more excited about today and continuing to work with all of you to create our daily (hourly) miracle. I was having breakfast late last week with someone who covers media for one of our competitors. He said, “I can’t believe you all do what you do every day.” The depth of our global reporting across so many subjects, the smartness of our feature sections and magazines, the range of information packed into our interactive graphics, the brilliant photo-journalism—the whole supremely elegant and urgent digital and print package you all create---simply dazzled him. “The gap between you and everyone else has never been wider,” he said. And he wasn’t (at least overtly) looking to work here.
Thanks to Arthur, Janet, Michael, Scott, Martin, Andy, and mostly, Bill Keller, there couldn’t be a stronger starting point for our team. My gratitude to them is boundless.
It is important to me that the leadership team I’ve begun to assemble have clear roles which all of you can understand. This is a start, explaining some changed roles. Some leaders will continue in the same roles, because they’ve made themselves irreplaceable, at least to us rookies in our first year. Others are considering special assignments that we deem critical for Year One.
So here’s just the beginning of the line-up, beginning with me:
I plan to focus my energies on two areas: digital innovation and integration and, no surprise here, the news. I also plan to be out in the newsroom, a lot, talking to all of you and listening to your ideas of how we push our journalism forward. You’ll be sick of me there will be so many brainstorming sessions, meal invitations and small meetings. I plan to attend the morning news meeting but, when big news doesn’t flood us, I’ll be spending my afternoons looking around corners, both digitally and journalistically, and soliciting your ideas on both. When I met with many of you over the summer, you said you wanted more interaction, so here I come. I promise our team will have a clear strategy. You’ll know what we like and want.
Which means, going by the alphabet………
Dean Baquet, as Managing Editor for News, will lead our news report across all subjects and platforms. We couldn’t have a better journalist or guardian of our journalism. Dean has my complete trust, although I’m not yet convinced his jokes at the news meetings are funnier than mine. Of course, I’ll remain totally plugged into the news, but Dean is running the report. And to help us make this arrangement work well, we’ve named two new assistant managing editors, Rick Berke and Susan Chira.
Rick Berke will oversee the Features departments and weekly sections, which all of you know are hugely important to me and our future. Rick is the single best editor at finding exactly the right person in the newsroom who can deliver the perfect, high-concept piece. And few can resist his entreaties. He will lead the weekly Features meeting and oversee the constellation of our dynamic weekly and Sunday sections. As National Editor, you immediately saw the energy, intelligence and visual sparkle he brought to the National pages and the aggressive talent scout he is. I’ve asked him to reconstitute and oversee a vibrant group of How We Live reporters. Their work will enrich the front page, the home page and the feature sections. Rick will remain connected to the weekend and daily news report and will be the masthead point person on politics, working closely with Dick Stevenson and the political desk.
Susan Chira will work closely with Dean and me in leading the news report, across all platforms. Her foreign report was stellar and only grew in urgency and beauty during her distinguished tenure as Foreign Editor. She adroitly led coverage of so many international crises (both the news and the heart-stopping ones involving our journalists) that I’ve lost count. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami coming on the heels of the Arab Spring and then the bin Laden raid allowed us all to see Susan’s super-human commitment to our journalists and our journalism. She brings unique strengths to our team, and beyond foreign I’ll love watching her apply her flawless news chops to all of our desks. Everything Susan touches gets better and she reflects the soul of the Times.
John Geddes has delighted me by agreeing to add a new focus to his role as Managing Editor for Operations. During my digital dive last year, I realized there was a vacuum in the senior newsroom leadership regarding our digital ventures. My six-months of total focus on digital operations convinced me that I need strong partners to help figure out our next smart moves, working with our business side colleagues. John and Deputy Managing Editor Bill Schmidt will continue working with me to ensure that we have the right newsroom resources in the right places. John will take on this new role as he retains all of his other duties and has pledged to make me laugh at least twice a day and keep his supply of salted peanuts.. To accomplish all this…..
Jim Roberts has granted my wish that once again he should help oversee our digital efforts as assistant managing editor, working closely with John. Now that we have integrated the newsroom, this won’t involve running the daily Web news report, but will involve making sure that we maintain our commitment to be the most innovative news site in the world. The job of true integration remains unfinished and Jim will work with John and me to help figure out the next steps and how our digital news desks, from video to social media, work together to achieve maximum edge. Jim is a superb newsman who has kept us on the cutting edge of everything from debt ceiling fights to hurricanes.
These roles become effective this week. Some new desk editors will be named very soon and there are some role changes that I will be sharing with you in coming days. The lineup will be filled out soon.
In October, I’ll talk to the newsroom and be happy to discuss everything. It won’t be called Throw Things At Jill. The name to beat is Jill Spills, so if you have something better, send ideas my way.
I couldn’t be prouder or happier this day.