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.
decision to leave the NYT
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 personally.”
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