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Changes at the ‘Times': Nagourney Heads West

National political correspondent takes over L.A. bureau; three reporters — including Matt Bai — to replace him

As expected, Adam Nagourney, national political correspondent at the New York Times, is relinquishing that role to take over as chief of the paper’s Los Angeles bureau.

He’s being replaced at the national by three reporters: Jeff Zeleny, Matt Bai and Jim Rutenberg.

Here’s the memo from executive editor Bill Keller:

To the Staff:

How do you replace Adam Nagourney, whose incisive judgment, boundless energy, fairmindedness, sharp prose and refreshing lack of cynicism have made him a Times byline to watch for since 1996? Frankly, that’s not a question I ever looked forward to facing, but Adam is following a longtime dream to Los Angeles, where he will replace Jennifer Steinhauer as bureau chief this summer. (He was actually appointed to this job once before, but was snatched back to join the coverage of 9/11.) This is good news for the new national editor, Rick Berke, and good news for those of us avid readers of dispatches from the West. But how do you fill the gaping hole in our political lineup?

Well, you do it with three people.

In contemplating Adam’s move, we realized that the day of the lone national political correspondent has passed. The incessant demands of print and Web, the mushrooming of competition in the field, our readers’ expectations that we will be their most authoritative and thoughtful source of information and analysis — all these things call for a new approach. And that is what we have come up with.

Our new politics triumvirate:

Jeff Zeleny will be the lead day-by-day political reporter, covering the major events with a steady supply of breaking news stories, news analysis, profiles and blog posts. Jeff, who as the best-sourced reporter on the White House is already central to our political coverage, will move to politics full time. He is a relentless digger, a lucid explainer and a delightful colleague, and, importantly, one of our most adept contributors to the Web and TV. He came to us in 2006 from the Chicago Tribune, where he developed a reputation as the most insightful chronicler of a certain Illinois senator. Before that he did politics at the Des Moines Register — a place that takes its politics mighty seriously.

Matt Bai, who has been our magazine’s political writer since 2002, will move to the daily paper in a newly created job as political columnist, providing his singular brand of unconventional wisdom. Like David Leonhardt or Joe Nocera in Bizday, Matt will write regular commentary on the candidates, the trends, and the mores of our political life. He will continue to write for the magazine, though less often. Before the magazine signed him up, Matt was a national correspondent for Newsweek and a metro reporter at the Boston Globe.

Jim Rutenberg will bring investigative muscle to the political team. After completing a couple of major non-politics projects for the investigative unit, Jim will join the national political team in the summer, and, working alongside Jeff, will focus on campaign-related investigative and enterprise stories that get behind the news. Jim came to us ten years ago from The Observer and the Daily News, and, as a White House correspondent and olitical reporter during the last two presidential campaigns, he has demonstrated both the political acumen and investigative tenacity to make him a natural for this assignment.

Of course, we expect to draw on a wide array of talent — especially from Washington, the national staff, Metro and investigations — to assure our readers continue to get the most incisive political report anywhere. Jeff, Matt and Jim will lead the charge.



More to read:

Staff Shuffling at the New York Times