Memo from Keller: Paper names new standards, culture editors.
After “much deliberation” and what he referred to as a “fair amount of not-even-in-the-ballpark speculation from Times-obsessed kibitzers,” New York Times executive editor Bill Keller announced a pair of appointments this week. Jon Landman, the Times’ deputy managing editor, digital, was named as the paper’s culture editor, the role vacated by Sam Sifton when he took over as the Times food critic following Frank Bruni’s exit.
Keller called the choice of Landman a “no brainer,” although that seems to be at odds with his “much deliberation” remark. (Landman had served as acting culture editor from 2004 to 2005 before transitioning to his current role.)
Alas, on Monday, Keller announced that Phil Corbett, deputy news editor since 2000, will take over for Craig Whitney as standards editor at the paper. Whitney is retiring at the end of the month.
Here are Keller’s memos to the Times staff:
Tuesday, Sept. 15
To the Staff:
After much deliberation, and a fair amount of not-even-in-the-ballpark speculation from Times-obsessed kibbitzers, we have a new culture editor to replace Sam Sifton. He is, I’m delighted to announce, Jon Landman.
Like the appointment of Sam as our new restaurant critic, this is one of those no-brainers that nonetheless requires some explaining because of the broader implications for the newsroom.
After more than four years overseeing the integration of the print and Web newsrooms and the spectacular flowering of journalistic innovation that accompanied it, Jon yearns to get back to running coverage, to refresh his roots. I doubt anyone will question that Jon brings to the Culture Department a strenuous intelligence, an inspiring vision, a gift for getting the very best from people and — no small thing as our competitive landscape shifts — a keen appreciation of what culture journalism can be on the Web. He spent a transitional year presiding over the department, implementing a sweeping overhaul of the department and grooming new leadership — including Sam Sifton — before he moved to the digital job. We interviewed a number of candidates, and were happily reminded in the process of the wealth of talent in our midst. But we’re pretty sure the other candidates would agree that Jon Landman will be an extraordinary culture editor. That’s the no-brainer part of the announcement.
While we’re on the subject of Culture, we would like to tip our hats to Amy Virshup, who has kept the department functioning at its customary high level in the weeks since Sam moved into vacation and tastebud preparation mode.
We have, of course, given intense thought to what this means for our digital journalism, which is so vibrant a part of our present and so central a part of our future. Our belief is that this is a moment to complete the integration of the newsroom we began five years ago.
As the deputy managing editor for digital, Jon has worked to bring down the psychological barriers, bureaucratic impediments, and we-don’t-do-things-that-way attitudes that separated the cultures of new and mainstream newsgathering. He has been a tireless champion of new ways to reach and engage our audience — journalism by unconventional means. He has advocated the full partnership of digital and print, journalism and technology. He has brought us an enormous distance toward the goal of a single, versatile, journalistic multiplex.
But not quite all the way. In proposing this change, Jon made a strong case that, in the next stage of integration, the support and promotion of this new kind of journalism must become more fully the responsibility of the newsroom’s top leadership — me, Jill and John. He reminded me that in the original proposal for an integrated newsroom — May, 2005 — I insisted that it is not enough to create new advocates for Web journalism within the NYT newsroom; the newsroom would be truly integrated only when the top editors took as much responsibility for our digital journalism as they do for the more traditional kind. We’ve stopped a little short of that ambition, in large part because we had Jon to defer to and depend on. We’ll have more to say on this important subject, but the main thing to say now is that Jill and I, in particular, see this as time to rearrange our priorities and devote more of our bandwidth to digital journalism.
Jon will not be extracting himself from the Web, not by a long shot. He will, of course, be deeply engaged in the Web as culture editor. He will also be part of a new advisory group that will work closely with me, Jill and John, counseling us on the continuing development of Nytimes.com and assuring strong advocacy of innovative ways to touch our audience.
Monday, Sept. 14
To the Staff:
With Craig Whitney’s retirement at the end of month, the newsroom is losing more than four decades of institutional knowledge. Craig joined The Times as an assistant to Scotty Reston in Washington in 1965, and owns one of the most amazing resumes at the newspaper: correspondent and bureau chief in Saigon, Moscow, Bonn, Paris and London; Foreign Editor; Washington bureau chief and two turns on the Masthead, including his current role as Standards Editor.
So who could possibly replace someone with Craig’s experience and well-honed sense of New York Times values, as the guardian of Times ethics and standards? We think we have found the exact choice in Phil Corbett, who has served as Deputy News Editor since 2000 and shares Craig ‘ s unerring sense of judgment and fairness.
On October 1, Phil will join the Masthead as Associate Managing Editor for Standards, taking over the lion’s share of Craig’s portfolio. In that role, Phil will become the newsroom’s voice for all standards and ethics questions relating to content and news coverage, both in the printed newspaper and on the web. This includes responsibility — along with Greg Brock — for dealing with corrections and editors ‘ notes, as well as questions from the Public Editor. He will also be the teller’s window for vetting conflict of interest and other policy rules outlined in the handbook on Ethical Journalism.
As Standards Editor, Phil will report to Deputy Managing Editor Bill Schmidt, who will also acquire a piece of Craig s current job. Already the newsroom ‘ s liaison to several business side departments, Bill will be the point person dealing with the kinds of theological questions that can emerge when the company looks to extend The Times brand by leveraging our journalists and our journalism.
Phil joined The Times in 1990 from the The Providence Journal-Bulletin, working as a copy editor, assistant editor and deputy editor in Metro before joining the News Desk. As deputy on the News Desk, his responsibilities included updating the Style Book and publishing a regular news letter for copy editors, roles he inherited and digitized when Al Siegal retired in 2006. Phil will continue to oversee both.
Like Craig, Phil ‘ s mandate is not only to preserve Times standards, but to shape recommendations and enforce reforms if and when he believes the accuracy or the impartiality of our journalism has been imperiled.
In announcing Phil’s promotion, we will also be asking Greg Brock to take on a larger role as Phil’s deputy, as Senior Editor for Standards. In addition to fielding reader inquiries about our journalism, he will continue, in consultation with Phil, to write and edit the daily correction report and, when necessary, editors ‘ notes, as well as to research questions or claims of errors or missteps in our reporting or writing.
Greg has served as a copy editor in Washington, an assistant on the Foreign desk and News editor in Washington before taking over in 2006 as Senior Editor in charge of the newsroom’s dealing with the public.
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