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First Black editor appointed to head New York Times

Miami Times staff report | 5/14/2014, 4:44 p.m.

Dean Baquet became the first Black to head The New York Times after the paper ousted its executive editor, Jill Abramson Wednesday, ending a rocky three year relationship with the paper.

Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger immediately appointed Baquet to fill the role at perhaps the world's most prestigious newspaper, a 163-year-old institution that has won 112 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any publication in the country.

The announcement stunned the paper's editorial staff in The Times' offices in New York. In his address to the newsroom, Sulzberger said he felt the need to make a management change, according to journalists at the paper. Although he did not offer details, Sulzberger said Abramson’s departure was related to her management of the newsroom. He made no effort to suggest that Abramson was leaving of her own accord.

Before his appointment, Baquet, 57, served as managing editor at The Times, a position that is second in command to the top post. A former editor of the Los Angeles Times, Baquet will be the first Black to become executive editor of the Times. He won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting at the Chicago Tribune in 1988.

“It is an honor to be asked to lead the only newsroom in the country that is actually better than it was a generation ago, one that approaches the world with wonder and ambition every day,” he said in a news release.

The newspaper did not comment on the reasons for Abramson’s departure, but she and Baquet had reportedly clashed over the newspaper’s direction and management . Some within the Times have been privately critical of Abramson’s management style, which they have described as aloof.

People at the paper said Abramson and Sulzberger had clashed recently, but it was unclear what their differences were. Another factor, they said, was Abramson’s souring relationship with Mark Thompson, the chief executive of the New York Times Co. and a former journalist at the BBC whom Sulzberger recruited in 2012.

Despite the internal criticism of Abramson during her tenure, the decision to replace her shocked many at the Times and elsewhere. “Everyone gob-smacked in NYT newsroom over Jill Abramson leaving and Dean Baquet taking over,” tweeted Times arts reporter Patricia Cohen not long after the news broke.

The newspaper has rarely replaced its top editor before retirement — Abramson’s predecessor, Bill Keller, held the job for eight years — and Abramson was young enough to have served at least a decade or longer in the position. What’s more, her status as the first woman to hold the job gave her special distinction.