Thursday, July 10, 2003

Is Baron back in the game? New York Post media reporter Keith Kelly says that Boston Globe editor Marty Baron was spied in the New York Times newsroom yesterday, fueling speculation that he's in line to become the Times managing editor -- most likely under Bill Keller, widely identified as the leading candidate to replace Howell Raines as executive editor. (Via Romenesko.)

Even before Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd resigned over the Jayson Blair scandal and its attendant fallout, Baron was identified as a leading contender for one of the top two jobs. The fact is that there just aren't all that many big-time editors anymore, especially ones who -- like Baron -- have some Times experience under their belt.

Baron, a former Editor & Publisher "Editor of the Year," won Pulitzers at both the Miami Herald and the Globe, the latter for the paper's monumental efforts in covering the pedophile-priest crisis in the Catholic Church.

In the past few weeks, though, Baron's chances had seemed to fade. As it has become increasingly likely that Keller -- passed over in favor of Raines two years ago -- would get the top job, Baron's being a white male appeared to be working against him. In the fevered game of media speculation, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was said to want a woman and/or an African-American in one of the two top spots. In some circles, Washington-bureau chief Jill Abramson was all but anointed as managing editor.

Now, though, things may be moving back Baron's way.

From the beginning, the managing editor's job has seemed like a natural fit for Baron if Sulzberger were inclined to go that way. Baron is only 48, and, given the problems experienced under the Raines-Boyd regime, one would think Sulzberger would be inclined to play it safe -- despite his reputation as a risk-taker. Baron would be a gamble as number one; but as number two, with a clear shot at the top job in, say, five to eight years, he'd be a natural.

Of course, this is all incredibly speculative. As Baron told me last month, "I don't think there's any purpose served in speculating on that prospect at all. Right now I'm here, I'm happy, I'm focused on what I'm doing here, and I don't want to speculate on what might happen."

The best quote on the subject comes from Times metropolitan editor Jonathan Landman, who recently told the New York Observer's Sridhar Pappu: "I truly know nothing. It's all a lot of people making stuff up. I don't know; you don't know. Everybody's making stuff up."

In other words: take all of this with a grain of salt.

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