Biggish, unusual personnel news coming out of the New York Times Co. on Wednesday.
Jill Abramson, managing editor for news at the Times, will "step aside for six months to focus on digital operations and strategy."
While Abramson is away, her duties will be picked up by three editors (beginning June 1): Washington bureau chief and assistant managing editor Dean Baquet, foreign editor Susan Chira and business editor Larry Ingrassia.
Executive editor Bill Keller called the move "a radical idea in the sense that no managing editor has ever said, ‘Okay, I’m going to step aside from my job and do this other thing.’"
Abramson will play a key role in honing the Times paywall strategy, which is slated to begin next January.
Keller added this: “There is still a digital rhythm and a print rhythm, and they don’t feel synchronized.”
Here’s his e-mail to staffers announcing the shift:
Sent: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 1:11 PM
Subject: Jill’s Big Adventure
Beginning June 1, Jill is going to take a six-month detour from the traditional Managing Editor role to run the news part of the Website and to fully immerse herself in the digital part of our world. Her aim will be to push our integration to the next level, which means mastering all aspects of our digital operation, not only the newsroom digital pipeline but also the company’s digital strategy in all its ramifications. During this time she will largely disengage from day-to-day news coverage.
We have invited three editors — Larry Ingrassia, Dean Baquet and Susan Chira — each to fill in for two months as acting Managing Editor for News. Larry will step up for June and July, Dean for August and September, and Susan for October and November.
No doubt this rotation will be widely analyzed, interpreted and speculated about. (I look forward to hearing and reading a lot of entertaining nonsense.) The real purpose is threefold: 1) to give us a chance to see some of our best editors applying their talents to the entire news report, in print and online, rather than to specific departments; 2) to give these editors a break, a digression, a cobweb-clearing, an adventure; and 3) to allow deputies in their departments to show what they can do with a couple months of greater authority and autonomy.
At the end of these sojourns, we expect the substitutes to return to their department a little smarter and a little refreshed. Jill will return to the ME job ready to guide the final lap of newsroom integration.
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