After 13 years covering Hollywood, Bernard Weinraub, the veteran New York Times reporter, is calling it quits. He flew to New York and met with his bosses Thursday to tell them he has decided to retire from the newspaper at year’s end. On Friday, he sent the Los Angeles bureau an email announcing his plan to “embark on a new adventure.”
His announcement took executive editor Bill Keller and cultural news editor Jonathan Landman by surprise since no one at the NYT had discussed retirement with Weinraub, who has been one of the paper's most recognizable and enduring bylines. “Yes, it was Bernie's choice, delivered as a considered, grown-up decision, not something he was willing to be talked out of,” Keller told LA Weekly Monday by email. “I'll let him explain the reasons, but he wants to reinvent himself one more time….He's a master of second, third and fourth acts. This is just the latest.”
Keller immediately offered Weinraub a freelance contract, details of which will be worked out in the coming weeks. “I've asked him to retain a writing and idea-generating relationship with the Times, and he has agreed,” Keller noted.
About Weinraub's career, Keller said, “Bernie is now enshrined in our short-term memories as the guy who pretty much invented serious newspaper coverage of Hollywood. That's a valid memory – he's still the bar new Hollywood beat reporters are urged to get over.”
“It’s been a great ride,” Weinraub told LA Weekly. “Most of all, I want to thank the Times. They took me on as a copy boy, sent me all over the world, and changed my life. And I’ll always be deeply grateful for that incredible opportunity.”
A one-time foreign correspondent (Saigon, Belfast, New Delhi and London twice), Pentagon reporter, political writer and White House correspondent, Weinraub left Washington D.C. and became the NYT’s Hollywood correspondent in 1991. After his 1997 marriage to Columbia Pictures president Amy Pascal, Weinraub was given the new title of senior West Coast cultural correspondent and eventually moved out of the movie beat and into more general entertainment coverage.
Recently, Weinraub has primarily reported on television, while his wife has become co-chairman of Sony Pictures. “Covering Hollywood changed my life, too, because I met somebody I love. And that changed my life in the best possible way,” Weinraub told LA Weekly. (In addition to two grown children by a first marriage, he has a four-year-old son with Pascal.)
In the email to his L.A. bureau colleagues, Weinraub wrote, “I hate the word ‘retire’ because it makes me feel incredibly ancient. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile. Actually a long time. I just think it’s time to embark on a new adventure.”
About his future plans, “I want to do some of my own writing, more personal stuff. I want to try some different kinds of writing. I want another chapter in my life,” explained Weinraub. He has long done considerable magazine work, especially Playboy interviews, and, back in 1983, had a book published.
Weinraub told the bureau that Keller and Landman “were incredibly flattering and generous” when he met with them. Both editors want him to write a long and reflective look back at his time in Hollywood before he leaves the end of December. “And I’ll probably take that long to clean up my office,” he said in his email. That’s no joke: Weinraub’s chaotic clutter is the stuff of legend inside and outside the bureau.
Landman told NYT staffers on Friday that he will start looking for a replacement for Weinraub as soon as possible.