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Times executives Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd resign
By Sara Kugler, Associated Press, 6/5/2003
NEW YORK The New York Times' top two editors resigned Thursday after a tumultuous five weeks that began with the exposure of Jayson Blair's journalistic fraud and grew into a drumbeat of criticism of the management style at one of the world's most distinguished newspapers.
Executive Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd left moments after speaking to hundreds of staffers in an emotional meeting in the Times newsroom the same spot where they celebrated a record seven Pulitzer Prizes just a year ago.
"Given the events of the last month ... Howell and Gerald concluded that it was best for the Times that they step down," Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a memo to staff. "With great sadness, I agreed with their decision."
Joseph Lelyveld, 66, the paper's former executive editor, will take over as interim executive editor. No one will be named interim managing editor.
Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said the search for new editors will take place "both inside the Times and outside." News reports have speculated that potential successors to Raines could include Bill Keller, the paper's former managing editor and currently a Times columnist and magazine writer; Dean Baquet, a former Times editor who is now managing editor of the Los Angeles Times; and Martin Baron, editor of the Boston Globe, a Times company.
"I'm sad. Howell Raines is a great journalist and a friend of mine," said Adam Clymer, a Times reporter in Washington.
"As sad as it is, what happened today is like lancing a boil," said Susan Tifft, a former Times reporter and coauthor of "The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times."
"You've got to have leadership that the newsroom can get behind," Tifft said. "Joe Lelyveld can do that with great ease."
None of the executives who spoke at Thursday's meeting mentioned the Blair debacle, which the Times called "a low point" in its 152-year history, but it was that shocking case of journalistic fraud that launched weeks of turmoil at the newspaper.
Raines, 60, and Boyd, 52, were dealt much of the blame following the Blair case, especially for sending the young reporter to cover the Washington-area sniper case when the metropolitan editor had previously raised concerns about Blair's earlier mistakes.
The case also brought to the surface criticisms of Raines' management style, which many staffers characterized as autocratic and overbearing.
"I hope things settle down and we get a decent executive editor who's reasonable," said Jerelle Kraus, art director for the newspaper's weekend section. "Howell Raines is someone who is feared."
His tenure, which began in 2001, was the shortest since Washington columnist James B. Reston served as executive editor for 13 months during 1968 and 1969, the Times said.
In the newsroom Thursday, Raines told his former staff he planned to return to writing and studying history, and would pursue interests in painting and photography.
"It's been a tumultuous 20 months, but we have produced some memorable newspapers," he said. He ended his remarks with a Raines-like exhortation: "Remember, when a great story breaks out, go like hell."
Some staffers were left in tears and, minutes later, Raines left the building on 43rd Street.
After Blair, 27, resigned on May 1, Raines was aware of the focus on him. During a meeting three days after the newspaper published a lengthy story detailing Blair's serial plagiarism and fraud, Raines told staffers he knew he was considered "inaccessible and arrogant."
"You believe the newsroom is too hierarchical, that my ideas get acted on and others get ignored. I heard that you were convinced there's a star system that singles out my favorites for elevation," he said.
Two weeks later, one of those star reporters resigned. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Rick Bragg left amid his suspension for a story that carried his byline but was reported largely by a freelancer. Bragg declined comment Thursday on the editors' resignations.
During the meeting in the third-floor newsroom, Sulzberger thanked the editors for their contributions to the Times. Boyd spoke of his commitment to diversity, and was briefly interrupted by applause. Retired publisher Arthur Sulzberger Sr. father of the current publisher also attended the meeting, standing silently throughout.
"I think that the newsroom has been volatile to the point of distraction for over a month now, and it is good that everything is going to settle down and move on," said Deborah Sontag, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine and a longtime Times employee.
Reporters, editors and correspondents around the world learned the news through the e-mail from Sulzberger, and were invited to listen to the meeting by conference call.
The editors quit more than a month after Blair resigned from the newspaper, later telling the New York Observer that he had "fooled some of the most brilliant people in journalism" with his tricks.
An initial investigation found fraud, plagiarism and inaccuracies in 36 of 73 articles Blair wrote between October and April.
Attempts to reach Blair Thursday were unsuccessful. CNN quoted Blair as saying he was "sorry that others have fallen ... I wish the rolling heads had stopped with mine."
Raines became executive editor just days before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The following April, the Times won the record seven Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of the attacks and the war in Afghanistan.
He had been editor of the editorial page for eight years and previously headed the newspaper's bureaus in Washington and London when he was named executive editor to replace the retiring Lelyveld.
Raines won his own Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1992 for a memoir he wrote for The New York Times Magazine about his childhood friendship in Alabama with his family's black housekeeper.
Boyd became the Times' first black managing editor in September 2001 after serving as deputy managing editor for news, and as assistant managing editor. He also served as co-senior editor of the Times' prize-winning series, "How Race is Lived in America."