Last night (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I pointed to the track record of Dean Baquet, who has ascended to the hallowed perch of executive editor at the New York Times, and observed that “someone who has clearly been a troubling and disruptive presence is now in charge.”
Two incidents spanning seven years support my contention. The first occurred in 2006 at the Los Angeles Times, where Baquet, then that paper’s editor, petulantly refused to make budget cuts the paper’s Tribune Company parent demanded, took his complaints public in the paper itself, metaphorically barricaded himself in his office, and dared the Trib to fire him (they did, two months later). The second occurred in April of last year, when Baquet, now at the New York Times, got into an argument with now deposed Executive Editor Jill Abramson, “burst out of Abramson’s office, slammed his hand against a wall … stormed out of the newsroom … (and was) gone for the rest of the day.” Now we learn from David Carr at the Old Gray Lady itself that, in essence, Baquet did an “it’s her or me” number on Abramson (HT Ann Althouse) to grease the skids for her firing.
Carr seems especially disappointed because the paper’s “first black guy” moment is being ruined:
When Dean let Arthur (Sulzberger) know that he would leave the paper because he found the situation untenable, it was clear that an important insurance policy for the newspaper’s future was going to leave the building.
You can’t blame Dean for advocating on his own behalf — after all, life is short. And almost anybody at The Times will tell you that Dean will make a great leader. He is courageous and smart, and he makes newspapering seem like a grand endeavor.
But the sense of pride that we should all feel at his ascension — as a great, decorated journalist and the first black executive editor of The New York Times — has been overwhelmed by the messiness surrounding it.
Gee, that’s funny. Just a year ago after the wall-punching incident, Baquet told the Politico that “I’m not quite sure people give her (Abramson) as much credit as she deserves.” Now we know that at crunch time, he’s just another opportunistic back-stabber.
Reiterating what I noted last night: “If the newsroom-executive suite relationship gets even rockier than it was under the now-departed Jill Abramson, Times management will have no one but themselves to blame.”
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.