Bill Keller, who served as
the executive editor of The New York Times
from 2003-2011, is leaving the newspaper to become editor in chief of The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization focused on reporting about
the U.S. criminal justice system.
He will continue at the NYT
through March, when his new appointment becomes effective.
Explaining the decision to leave the
after three decades, during which he reported on the fall of apartheid in South Africa and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Keller stated: “It’s a chance to build something
from scratch, which I’ve never done before, and to use all the tools that digital technology offers journalists in terms of ways to investigate and to present on a subject that really matters
Founded in 2013 by Neil Barsky, a former money manager who also worked as a journalist at The Wall Street Journal
, The Marshall Project aims to highlight
the inequalities and inefficiencies of the U.S. prison system, with an eye to stimulating reform efforts.
The Marshall Project will be funded by donations from individuals and foundations,
according to its Web site.
The move comes amid growing support for criminal justice reform, and some tentative first steps in that direction. Last year, U.S. Attorney General Eric
Holder announced that the federal government would revise guidelines for attorneys prosecuting drug crimes and stop sentencing nonviolent drug offenders to long prison terms. President Obama also
granted clemency to a number of nonviolent drug offenders behind bars.
Keller is just the latest big-name journalist to leave an established (if somewhat beleaguered) news
organization in favor of new digital platforms. Last month, long-time Washington Post
columnist Ezra Klein announced he was leaving the newspaper to help found a new digital news site in
partnership with Vox Media, which also owns The Verge
, a tech and media Web site.