Last updated: June 3, 2011 12:41 am

NY Times names first female editor

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Jill Abramson is to become the first female executive editor in The New York Times’ 160-year history, as Bill Keller steps down after eight years from the highest editorial position at the newspaper.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr, chairman of The New York Times Company and publisher of its august flagship title, said Mr Keller had proposed moving to a columnist role several weeks ago, which he accepted “with mixed emotions”.

He credited Ms Abramson with leading the integration of its print and digital news efforts, a process that has become more urgent since The New York Times became the largest general interest newspaper to charge for content online, introducing a metered subscription model in March.

Ms Abramson told the FT it was “a thrill” to be the first woman to hold arguably the most senior role in American journalism. She said she “stood on the shoulders” of past executive editors and of influential women including Janet Robinson, chief executive of the New York Times, and Maureen Dowd, a Times columnist instrumental in bringing her to the paper.

The succession, which will take effect in September, will see Dean Baquet, a former editor of The Los Angeles Times, step up from his present role as assistant managing editor and Washington bureau chief to replace Ms Abramson as managing editor.

Mr Keller took over from Howell Raines in 2003 in the wake of a plagiarism scandal involving Jayson Blair, a young reporter, which prompted extended soul-searching at an institution that sees itself as a beacon of journalistic propriety.

“It was a time of turmoil. He created stability in the newsroom and left the journalism stronger than ever before,” said Ms Abramson.

His tenure was marked by relative editorial solidity and digital progress, but included periods of pressure on newsroom budgets as its parent company struggled in the financial crisis, and saw tougher competition in its home market after News Corp bought the Wall Street Journal.

Ms Abramson acknowledged the competition for talent, saying: “I sometimes feel I’m playing Whac-A-Mole because Bloomberg [is] dangling some hot offer at someone, or ESPN or the Huffington Post.” But she added: “It still feels like a glorious job to me.”

Mr Keller said his time in charge had been “exhilarating years of tumult and transformation” but that he “wanted to move on when the newsroom felt strong in its journalism and secure in its future”. He will continue to write for the New York Times magazine and a new Sunday opinion and news section which will launch on June 26.

Ms Abramson, a former investigative reporter and deputy Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, joined the New York Times in 1997 and ran its Washington bureau from 2000 to 2003.

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