A bit buried in the unexpected announcement that the New York Times is ditching its first female executive editor, Jill Abramson, after less than three years, is that the man replacing her is also historic. Dean Baquet, 57, unexpectedly became the first African-American atop the paper’s masthead today, calling it “an honor to be asked to lead the only newsroom in the country that is actually better than it was a generation ago.”
“There is no journalist in our newsroom or elsewhere better qualified to take on the responsibilities of executive editor at this time than Dean Baquet,” said Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. “He is an exceptional reporter and editor with impeccable news judgment who enjoys the confidence and support of his colleagues around the world and across the organization.”
Yadda, yadda, yadda.
He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988. After about seven years reporting in New Orleans, including a stint at the Times-Picayune, Baquet moved to the Chicago Tribune in 1984. Four years later, he was part of Pulitzer Prize–winning team that covered City Council corruption. “I’ve got two boys with two Pulitzers,” Baquet’s mom has said, including her youngest, Terry, who also won one at the Times-Picayune. “Not many mothers can say that.”
At the L.A. Times, he was accused of killing a story on the NSA. Pre-Snowden whistle-blower and AT&T technician Mark Klein worked for two months on a story with L.A. Times reporter Joe Menn, but then told the story “had been killed at the request of then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and then-director of the NSA Gen. Michael Hayden,” ABC reported. “Baquet confirmed to ABCNews.com he talked with Negroponte and Hayden but says ‘government pressure played no role in my decision not to run the story.’ Baquet says he and managing editor Doug Frantz decided ‘we did not have a story, that we could not figure out what was going on’ based on Klein’s highly technical documents.”
Klein’s story was later published by … the New York Times.
Glennzilla’s not going to like this.
But then what does he like?
Los Angeles did not work out. In what he called a “tragic, bad marriage” between the Tribune Company and the L.A. Times, Baquet was forced out when he refused to make dramatic staff cuts in late 2006. “It is the job of an editor of a newspaper to put up a little bit more of a fight than we have put up in the past,” Baquet said at a speech just before his firing. “Your newsroom wants you to lead them.”
Eventually, Baquet came back to New York. In 2007, he joined the Times again under executive editor Bill Keller, and was considered a top candidate to replace him before Abramson eventually got the (short-lived) job. “These are two people who are really good friends of mine. I don’t know what happened,” Keller told the Washington Post today. “I’m sad for Jill and hope for the best for Dean.”
Meanwhile regarding Baquet . . . personally
Baquet’s mother, Myrtle Romano Baquet, who passed away in 2010, was described by The Times-Picayune as “the matriarch of one of New Orleans’ first families of home-style Creole cooking.” She, along with Baquet’s late father, ran the restaurant Eddie’s, of which comedian Bill Cosby was a fan and where Baquet’s favorite dish was gumbo.
While current coverage makes no mention of it, back in his LAT days Baquet referred to himself not as an African-American but as a “creole”
Here — let Tim Reid and company explain.
As you might expect, LaBelle will sing us out.