By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
After a long, long, longdeliberation process that pitted two popular editors — Sam Sifton and Jim Schachter — against one another, TheNewYorkTimeson Friday afternoon finally named Sifton as its new Culture editor. He replaced Jon Landman, who is moving up the paper’s editorial ladder. The announcement by editor Bill Keller was much anticipated, because both Sifton and Schachter badly wanted the job and were openly in competition for it. At times, the tension inside the Culture department could be cut with the proverbial knife, as each had their camp of supporters and rumors were flying that whoever didn’t get the job would bolt the Timesin a huff. That proved incorrect, because the late word is that Schachter will indeed be staying. Sources tell L.A.Weeklythat Sunday Arts and Leisure editor Jodi Kantor also had her sights on the job, but it was clear before too long that the final candidates were Sifton and Schachter.
From the start, Landman was known to be a short-timer as Culture editor. Not only was he an arts and pop culture neophyte, but he was given the primary task of overseeing the Culture department’s complex redesign and repurpose, which has had the section in a virtual uproar since it began a year ago with new hires, new features, etc. (Interestingly, Keller called the Culture department changes a “renaissance” in his e-mail to the exhausted Culture staff, which is not how anyone there would term the chaos.)
The appointment of Sifton as opposed to Schachter was a classic case of the eventual triumph of creative over content. Schachter on paper had all the necessary goods: He’d been a prominent editor within the LosAngelesTimes’Business section before jumping to the NYTin a similar capacity. His move to Culture was surprising but also sensible. Everyone who has worked with him likes him and respects him.
Sifton, too, is a favorite of much of the staff. But his route to the head Culture job was circuitous. He’d been the editor of the NYT’sDining section before moving to Culture, and before then a senior writer at Tina Brown’s Talkmagazine as well as the managing editor of the weekly NewYorkPress.A talented writer and deft wordsmith, Sifton also has authored the satirical book FieldGuidetotheYetie;YoungEntrepreneurialTechnocrats,about dot-com geeks, published in 2000.
Here is Keller’s announcement, in its entirety:
Samhasanimpresario’sgiftformatchingwriterswithideas.Hehasanearforlanguage(searchhisownbylineifyouwantevidence).Healsohasanenthusiasmthatrubsoffonhiscolleaguesandthat(notasmallthinginculture)reachestheoutsideconstituencieswhoseeThe Times asthecountry’smostimportantpublicspace.Hecanmakeyoulaughevenwhenheisdisagreeingwithyou.Hewillbe,I’mconfident,agreatCultureeditor.
Thegoodnewsdoesnotendthere.I’mdelightedtoreportthatJimSchachter,whoasSam’spartnerhasprovenhimselfaneditorofimmenseskill,competitivedrive,inventivenessandwit,hasagreedtokeepthedreamteamintact.Jimwillassumeanenlargeddeputyrole,runningthenewsoperationacrossalldisciplinesandambitiouslysteeringthedepartment’senterprisereporting.WhenJimcametothedepartmentayearagofromBizday, hismissionwasprimarilytoaddsomereal,money-worldstreetcredtothemixofcoverage,andsomemanagementskilltoadepartmentthatwasbadlybalkanized.Hehassuppliedalotmorethanthat,includingkeennewsjudgmentandinvestigativeinstinctsthathavegivennewurgencytotheArtsreport.Mr.Landman,again:‘JimisoneoftheverybesteditorsI’veknownatThe Times . . . Thebiggestchangeinthesectionoverthelastfewmonthshasbeenthevitalityofitsnewsreport,andnosingleindividualhasdoneasmuchasJimtomakethathappen.’
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