Within the last 24 hours, three bold faced names departed The New York Times Company for greener pastures in the media world, continuing an unusual trend that began earlier this year. Why can't the Times keep its stars?
At the top of the morning, a report circulated that Times media reporter Brian Stelter was set to leave for a splashy position as the new host of CNN's Reliable Sources. (News of the negotiations broke last night, and the hiring was confirmed by Stelter this morning.) The move was a bit surprising, since it meant going to work for Jeff Zucker, a subject who Stelter covered extensively while reporting his book about the morning TV wars and company he has not hesitated to criticize in the past.
Stelter had been an occasional fill-in after the departure of Howard Kurtz over the summer, but told the The Washington Post's Erik Wemple at the time that "I would not leave the Times for a television job." Stelter seemed like a dedicated, lifelong Times-man, too. The paper hired him in 2007 after he made his name at TVNewser, a blog he started when he was still in college. He also became a featured player in Page One, a 2011 documentary about the Times newsroom, positioning him as a sure-fire successor to media desk veterans Bill Carter and David Carr, who once said Stelter was "a robot assembled to destroy" him.
I'm joining @CNN as the network's senior media correspondent and the host of "Reliable Sources."— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 12, 2013
Minutes after the Times and CNN posted their memos congratulating Stelter for his new job, The Huffington Post's Michael Calderone reported that Matt Bai, a political reporter who spent over a decade writing for The New York Times Magazine, was decamping for Yahoo! News. Bai's departure was the second-big loss for the Magazine in just twelve hours, after news broke Monday night that editor-in-chief Hugo Lindgren will be gone by years' end. The Lindgren news was less of a shock. Rumors persisted all year that Jill Abramson, the Times' Executive Editor, was not pleased with Lindgren's short tenure at the glossy Sunday insert, a period marked by high turnover on the masthead. (Update, 2:27 p.m. Lindgren "choked up and described the last few days as difficult," according to the Times' Christine Haughney, when he confirmed his departure during a lunchtime staff meeting.)
This week's moves are not only high-profile departures to plague the Times this year. Number-cruncher Nate Silver took his talents and his FiveThirtyEight blog to ESPN in exchange for a shiny new kingdom. Yahoo! also poached tenured tech reviewer David Pogue to start a new vertical.
It seems Abramson has not had a good year. In April, Dylan Byers wrote that the newsroom was chafing against her leadership style. She was brash, strong, testy: all qualities, many pointed out, that are usually celebrated in male bosses. But newly-appointed president and CEO Mark Thompson was the "visionary" brought in to save the Times newsroom as the guy with business experience who can guide the paper into the future. One of them better figure out how to keep their marquee names from going elsewhere.