April 20, 2022

Tuesday’s announcement that Dean Baquet is stepping down as executive editor of The New York Times came as no surprise. Baquet is 65 and most assumed he would step aside in 2022.

It also wasn’t a surprise that Joe Kahn, managing editor at the Times since September 2016, will take over.

More on Kahn in a moment, but first a few words about Baquet and his eight-year run as executive editor. First, the numbers alone paint a picture of great success. During Baquet’s time as executive editor, the Times won 18 Pulitzer Prizes, including two for Public Service. Perhaps more importantly, the Times saw significant audience growth. The Times now reaches 100 million readers each month and had 6.7 million subscriptions to its print and digital news products as of the end of 2021.

Yes, it’s not just about numbers, and there’s no question that he had his detractors and controversies.

The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum and Jim Windolf wrote, “Mr. Baquet also navigated controversies inside and outside the paper. An award-winning podcast, ‘Caliphate,’ was found to have fallen well short of the paper’s journalistic standards. In 2021, the reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. left under pressure after complaints about his use of a racist slur during a Times-sponsored trip for high school students. Newsroom employees called for a more aggressive commitment to diversifying the staff. The newspaper, traditionally accused of bias by some conservatives, faced criticism from some liberals about its coverage.”

I don’t know Baquet. We’ve traded emails a few times when I’ve quoted him for stories. But I do know this. In my role as a media writer for Poynter and the author of this daily newsletter, I consume a considerable amount of media. And I believe that, day in and day out, there is not a more impressive news organization than The New York Times. (The Washington Post is right there, too.)

And Baquet must be given some credit for that.

Baquet, the first Black executive editor of the Times, said in a statement, “It has been my great honor to lead the best newsroom in the world for the past eight years. I could not be leaving The Times in better hands than with a leader like Joe, who is not only brilliant but humane. I would like to thank the Sulzberger family for their continued dedication to protecting our country’s most powerful engine of independent, investigative journalism.”

In the same statement, A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times and chairman of The New York Times Company, said, “In the last eight years, Dean has fearlessly led The Times through an unbelievably challenging and consequential period, from guiding our transformation into a truly digital newsroom to confronting the escalating pressures on independent journalism to keeping pace with a historic flood of giant news stories. At the same time, Dean built the strongest investigative reporting operation on earth and oversaw a bounty of journalism that repeatedly changed the national conversation, from #MeToo, to ‘The Daily,’ to the 1619 Project, to our coverage of the Trump administration, COVID pandemic and conflict in Ukraine.”

Next up?

Joe Kahn, the next executive editor of The New York Times. (Celeste Sloman for The New York Times)

Joe Kahn takes over for Baquet in June and will become one of the most influential and powerful figures in the media. He’s a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and has extensive editing experience. (Check out my Poynter story for more details on his career.)

In a statement, Sulzberger said, “Joe brings impeccable news judgment, a sophisticated understanding of the forces shaping the world and a long track record of helping journalists produce their most ambitious and courageous work. We couldn’t ask for a better leader for our newsroom amid a historic convergence of events. And as one of the architects of our digital transformation, Joe’s vision will be crucial as we seek to become even more valuable to readers around the world.”

In a profile of Kahn for The New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum wrote, “As the paper’s managing editor since 2016, Mr. Kahn built a 24-hour operation with hubs in London and Seoul, South Korea. He helped re-engineer a print-focused newsroom into a more agile digital outfit, and introduced real-time news updates that The Times believes can compete against the speed and immediacy of cable TV and social media.”

Grynbaum added, “For all his influence at the paper, Mr. Kahn is a quieter, more reserved presence than the departing executive editor, Dean Baquet. When Mr. Kahn starts in June, he will need to lead 1,700 employees around the world as they navigate big shifts at their institution, amid a moment of political polarization, disinformation and distrust.”

While Kahn certainly has the credentials to replace Baquet, some are questioning the decision, wondering if the Times is simply staying on its current course.

In a piece for the Columbia Journalism Review, Kyle Pope wrote, “In picking Joe Kahn, the Times’ managing editor, to replace Baquet, the newspaper is signaling that it has no plans to rethink its approach. Baquet and A.G. Sulzberger, the Times’s publisher, have consistently dismissed the idea that journalistic norms of objectivity should be tossed out. The view of the Times leadership is that journalism is more threatened by a lack of trust, which only grows when readers sense that the paper has its thumb on the partisan scale.”

Northeastern University professor and media observer Dan Kennedy tweeted, “Joe Kahn’s ascension at the @nytimes is a clear indication that the Sulzbergers believe everything is just fine. And in many ways, it is — a huge paying audience, great journalism, vibrant digital products. The political coverage is broken. The Times’ enterprise stories on politics grapple very well with the Republicans’ descent into insanity, but then the day-to-day coverage treats the two parties as equal players. For now, at least, nothing’s going to be done about that.”

Kahn definitely will come under intense scrutiny, not only outside of the Times, but internally, too. Baquet hands over a very healthy Times to Kahn, but the timing is still precarious.

Pope wrote, “Kahn’s challenge in the coming months will be navigating the domestic political fights, as attention shifts to the midterm elections and then to Trump. The left, in particular, increasingly sees the paper as an enabler of the status-quo approach to the coverage of Trump and his supporters that is now viewed as a very real threat. Times reporters continue to encounter increasing hostility on social media (Baquet recently advised them to tweet less), and that dynamic will definitely prove a recurring distraction as the political calendar advances.”

Trouble at CNN+?

“CNN+ looks doomed.” That’s the ominous headline on the latest story from Axios media reporter Sara Fischer.

Fischer writes, “Warner Bros. Discovery has suspended all external marketing spend for CNN+ and has laid off CNN’s longtime chief financial officer as it weighs what to do with the subscription streaming service moving forward, five sources tell Axios.”

Fischer says CNN+, the network’s streaming service that launched at the end of March, has roughly 150,000 subscribers so far. CNN believes the launch has been a success, but apparently executives of Discovery, which just took over as owners of CNN, disagree.

A valid question to ask is if CNN rushed the launch so it would be done by Discovery’s acquisition, which was finalized earlier this month. Fischer wrote, “If CNN held off launching CNN+ until after the merger, it would have been easier to pivot the company’s efforts towards something better aligned with Discovery’s goals.”

Fischer added, “Warner Bros. Discovery executives see an opportunity to possibly include some CNN+ content on CNN’s app and make that video available for free and supported by ads, according to one source. Other CNN+ programming could live within HBO Max. It sees potential in leveraging the already massive reach of and CNN’s main app to drive its digital growth long-term, as opposed to another subscription outside of linear TV.”

New CNN boss Chris Licht doesn’t officially take over until May 2, but has reportedly been sitting in on meetings at the network.

One more CNN nugget

Fischer also mentioned this in her story about CNN+: for the 9 p.m. Eastern slot once anchored by Chris Cuomo, CNN might get away from a personality-driven perspective program and, instead, focus on a live news broadcast.

Pulling back the curtain

Quite the story here from The Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz: “Meet the woman behind Libs of TikTok, secretly fueling the right’s outrage machine.”

As Lorenz notes in her story, “Libs of TikTok reposts a steady stream of TikTok videos and social media posts, primarily from LGBTQ+ people, often including incendiary framing designed to generate outrage. Videos shared from the account quickly find their way to the most influential names in right-wing media. The account has emerged as a powerful force on the Internet, shaping right-wing media, impacting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and influencing millions by posting viral videos aimed at inciting outrage among the right.”

Lorenz adds, “The anonymous account’s impact is deep and far-reaching. Its content is amplified by high-profile media figures, politicians and right-wing influencers. Its tweets reach millions, with influence spreading far beyond its more than 648,000 Twitter followers. Libs of TikTok has become an agenda-setter in right-wing online discourse, and the content it surfaces shows a direct correlation with the recent push in legislation and rhetoric directly targeting the LGBTQ+ community.”

Lorenz digs into who is behind the account — a woman named Chaya Raichik — and, more disturbingly, the dangerous and negative impact this person is having on real lives.

But this story does come with some controversy: notably, criticism from some on the right that Lorenz is revealing someone behind an anonymous account. However, as many pointed out on social media on Tuesday, the information in the piece was already publicly available online. Ironically, it was journalist and frequent conservative media guest Glenn Greenwald who confirmed Lorenz had the right person.

Lorenz wrote in her story, “When a reporter called the phone number registered to Raichik’s real estate profile and, the woman who answered hung up after the reporter identified herself as calling from The Washington Post. A woman at the address listed to Raichik’s name in Los Angeles declined to identify herself. On Monday night, a tweet from Glenn Greenwald confirmed the house that was visited belonged to Raichik’s family.”

Lorenz tweeted Tuesday, “Rather than debate ‘doxxing’ I hope people can read this story and see the striking escalation of attacks against gay and trans people, and the crucial role this account has played in the right wing media ecosystem.”

Lorenz also tweeted earlier in the day, “Reporters make phone calls, send messages, show up places, and knock on doors when reporting out a story. I reported this story out extensively, using every tool I had, to ensure I had the correct woman.”

And here’s another Lorenz tweet: “Yes, an acct whose goal is driving LGBTQ ppl out of public life is bad. Gay/trans ppl targeted by the acct have had their lives destroyed, but the *point* of the story is actually a nuanced look at radicalization & how the right wing outrage cycle functions. That’s worth covering.”

The Washington Post’s Will Oremus tweeted, “​​Here’s a piece of good, old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting that examines the role of an increasingly powerful figure in conservative media, revealing the human behind an anonymous account that directs waves of hate and harassment at ordinary LGBTQ folks.”

That hasn’t stopped many conservatives, including those in the conservative media, from losing their minds over Lorenz’s reporting. It’s an argument that, quite frankly, is ridiculous.

Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery smartly tweeted, “You don’t get to wear a hood while you terrorize people and then complain when somebody rips off that hood. More specifically, reporting is, inherently, uncovering who is doing what, especially when the ‘what’ is harming innocent people.”

Kat Bouza wrote about all this for Rolling Stone in “Taylor Lorenz Wrote About Libs of TikTok — and Conservatives Won’t Shut Up About It.”

Here’s the advice I can offer: Read Lorenz’s story.

Ohio Local News initiative

For this item, I turn it over to Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds.

The Ohio Local News Initiative, an ambitious $6 million nonprofit digital startup, has named an editor-in-chief. She is Lila Mills, formerly a reporter for The Plain Dealer, who moved into community organizing more than a decade ago. Mills has trained more than 500 residents to monitor and report on public meetings. The Initiative will begin publishing in Cleveland later this year and hopes to branch into other parts of Ohio in years to come.

The latest notable journalism on Russia-Ukraine

Local civilians walk past a tank destroyed during heavy fighting in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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