From Times To Times: Baquet Moves From LA To NY

The Los Angeles Time editor fired by the Tribune Co. for insubordination has found a new--actually, old--home at The New York Times. Dean Baquet, who lost his job in November 2006 for refusing to cut his newsroom staff to reduce costs, is returning to The New York Times as an assistant managing editor and the chief of its Washington bureau. Baquet replaces Philip Taubman, who will now be employed as an investigative reporter on national security issues and an associate editor of the paper.

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."

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