Baquet worked as a reporter for The New York Times from 1990-2000, when he left to take the position of managing editor of the Los Angeles newspaper. By 2005, he had been promoted to editor of the paper, but it was a short-lived triumph. Baquet clashed with the newspaper's owners at the Tribune Co. over planned staff cutbacks in a series of very public disagreements.
The return of Baquet has become the occasion for some professional sniping between the two national newspapers. A note to The New York Times' staff from Bill Keller, the paper's executive editor, seemed to include a dig at Baquet's old employer: "It's nice to have him back where he belongs... in a bureau that can rise to all of his expectations."
More pointedly, Keller described The New York Times as "the last great American news organization that is not in retreat, where journalists can be confident of our commitment."
Two weeks ago, Editor & Publisher reported that Keller wanted Baquet to return to The New York Times, and in an interview in the December-January issue of the American Journalism Review, Keller seemed to take some enjoyment in the LA Times' troubles, predicting that The Washington Post will "probably go hire all the good people from the LA Times... All the good people who are left after we've finished our own hiring."
The sniping hasn't been one-way.
In a memo to LA Times staffers about Baquet rejoining the competition, Doyle McManus, LA Times' Washington, D.C. bureau chief, fired back: "To be high-minded about it, a good, competitive New York Times bureau is good for journalism as a whole. To be low-minded about it, well, it will still be The New York Times, still encumbered by that paper's institutional weaknesses and still, even with Dean on the premises, an often unpleasant place to work."