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Politico founding editor John F. Harris penned his apparent disappointment in The New York Times’ new choice in executive editor, arguing the pick of a White, wealthy male was too “traditional” for this day and age.
The Times announced its new executive editor as two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and previous Times managing editor Joe Kahn on Tuesday. Harris gave away his opinion on the hire in the title of his piece, “Bland Ambition: What the Joe Kahn Choice Says About the New York Times.”
“Kahn is a white male born into a wealthy family,” Harris noted at the outset of his column in Politico magazine. “He graduated with an Ivy League diploma. He proved his skill as a reporter at a young age, then spent decades organizing his career around the ethos and values of an elite news institution.”
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U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff sided with The New York Times. (Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)
(DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)
“How in this entrepreneurial age — a moment of radical disruption in the news business — did the Times settle on such a profoundly traditional choice?” Harris asked.
A New York Times Magazine profile of the new boss, however, seemed to highlight his wealth without judgment.
“He is the ultimate inside man, so sturdy, disciplined, and reverential to the mission of the Times that the very notion of him self-destructing seems improbable,” reporter Shawn McCreesh wrote in the feature. “Kahn had led me into the elevator and down the hallway lined with photographs of the paper’s Pulitzer Prize winners and into this room adorned with black-and-white pictures of the old printing press. The place was desolate, but the Times has never been bigger. It can hardly even be called a newspaper anymore. The company has some 5,000 full-time employees, and it produces documentaries and podcasts, newsletters and cooking apps.”
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McCreesh called Kahn a “fabulously wealthy Bostonian,” who is known for “his reputation for adroitness and overachieving.”
New York Times Managing Editor Joseph Kahn gives the keynote speech at the Andrew Olle lecture 2017 at ICC darling Harbour on October 27, 2017 in Sydney, Australia.
(photo by El Pics/ Getty Images)
Harris suggested that today’s media environment demands a little less tradition. His predecessor, Dean Baquet, Kahn noted, broke the mold as the first African American to lead the Times newsroom and someone who was considered a racial pioneer.
The editor offered a few factors for the new trend in hiring steadier, low-profile figures to run newsrooms, one being that media organizations have been “buffeted in recent years by ideological and cultural fissures.” Tapping someone like Kahn, Harris suggested, could help tamp down tempers.
Pile of newspapers on white background
Harris quoted veteran editor and author Tina Brown, who said news outlets are shying away from “swashbuckling editors.”
“Most managements are quite afraid of people who ‘move fast and break things,'” Brown said in the piece.
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It appeared to be a rocky start for Kahn following the announcement. Critics mocked him for doing a very non-traditional photo shoot to coincide with the announcement, one photo of which depicted him sitting on the floor, shoeless, beside a pile of newspapers.