Our Views: Baquet does La. proud _lowres

New York Times, managing editor Dean Baquet

A New Orleans native has ascended to the top editorial post at The New York Times, the newspaper announced Wednesday.

Dean Baquet, the son and brother of New Orleans restaurateurs and a former newspaper reporter in New Orleans, was named the newspaper’s executive editor Wednesday. Baquet, who serves as managing editor of the newspaper, will replace Jill Abramson.

The company didn’t give a reason for the change. Abramson and Baquet had both been in their current positions since September 2011.

Baquet, 57, who will be the first African-American to hold the newspaper’s highest editorial position, received a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 1988.

“It is an honor to be asked to lead the only newsroom in the country that is actually better than it was a generation ago, one that approaches the world with wonder and ambition every day,” Baquet said in a statement.

He is the second New Orleanian and Times-Picayune/States-Item alumnus to lead one of the nation’s foremost news organizations. Walter Isaacson became the editor of Time magazine in 1996, then chairman and chief executive officer of CNN in 2001.

Baquet’s family is famous in New Orleans and beyond for its Creole-soul food restaurants featuring dishes such as fried chicken, gumbo and crawfish pies.

The family has been a staple on the New Orleans restaurant scene since 1947, getting its start with All Gross Chicken Coup at Bienville and North Roman streets, said Wayne Baquet, Dean Baquet’s older brother and the owner of Lil Dizzy’s Café on Esplanade Avenue.

Wayne and Dean Baquet’s father, Edward Baquet, owned the legendary 7th Ward eatery Eddie’s, which became a destination for many visitors to New Orleans after comedian Bill Cosby raved about it on “The Tonight Show.”

The change in editors comes amid a continued shift in the Times’ focus, and that of the newspaper industry overall, toward digital products and away from traditional print papers as print circulation and advertising revenue decline.

In its most recent quarter, the Times Co. saw overall advertising revenue rise for the first time in three years, jumping 3 percent to $158.7 million. The company’s print and digital advertising both rose compared with the same period a year earlier.

The company also added digital subscribers and increased home-delivery prices. At the same time, the company posted a small profit that fell slightly short of Wall Street analysts’ expectations.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the newspaper’s publisher, called Baquet the best qualified journalist to take on the top job in the Times’ newsroom.

“He is an exceptional reporter and editor with impeccable news judgment who enjoys the confidence and support of his colleagues around the world and across the organization,” Sulzberger said in a statement. He said Baquet was closely involved with Abramson in the Times’ digital transformation.

Baquet originally joined the Times in 1990 as a reporter and held positions including deputy metropolitan editor and national editor. He left the paper in 2000 for The Los Angeles Times, where he served as managing editor, then editor. He rejoined The New York Times in 2007 and was Washington bureau chief before becoming the managing editor for news in September 2011.

Prior to his first stint at The New York Times, Baquet worked at The Times-Picayune and later The Chicago Tribune.

While at the Tribune in 1988, Baquet and two other journalists won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for looking into corruption in the Chicago City Council. He was a finalist in the same category in 1994.

Abramson, 60, was the Times’ first female executive editor. She joined the newspaper in 1997 after working for nearly a decade at The Wall Street Journal. She was the Times’ Washington editor and bureau chief before being named managing editor in 2003.

Baquet succeeded her as managing editor after she was named to the top editing spot.