The New York Times has named Jill Abramson its executive editor, effective Sept. 6, succeeding Bill Keller, who is stepping down after about eight years to write full-time for the paper.
Ms. Abramson, who has been managing editor since 2003 and was previously Washington bureau chief, recently played an important role in developing The Times' new online pay wall, a big bid to diversify digital revenue beyond ad sales.
She also becomes the paper's first female executive editor. She hadn't dwelled on that prospect, she told New York magazine last fall, but thought it would be a "nice, healthy thing" for the country. "It is meaningful to have women in positions of leadership at important institutions in society," she said then. "But, you know, there are wonderful male editors in this place who are just as capable as I am, and they could run this place exquisitely well. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn't, it doesn't."
Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement that Ms. Abramson was "without question" the best person to succeed Mr. Keller. "With him, she steered the newsroom through one of the most challenging periods in recent history, both economically and culturally," he said. "Over the past year, she has immersed herself in our digital strategy and led the effort to fully integrate the newsroom."
Mr. Keller took over and stabilized the newsroom after Howell Raines was forced out following the scandal surrounding Times reporter Jayson Blair's story fabrication and plagiarism. Mr. Keller also had to steer The Times through very difficult times in the newspaper industry. Additionally, he was at the helm as Rupert Murdoch gained control of The Wall Street Journal and trained its sights on Times readers and advertisers.
Edward Atorino, media industry analyst at Benchmark Co., said a change in the newsroom's top editor was not likely to significantly impact the paper's business prospects.
"Bill came to me several weeks ago and told me that he felt the time had come for him to step down from the role of executive editor," Mr. Sulzberger said. "I accepted his decision with mixed emotions. I'm truly grateful for the outstanding job he has done leading our newsroom for the past eight years, and I'm delighted we're not losing him."
This year Mr. Keller assumed an additional role as columnist for The New York Times Magazine. His column has explained how the paper dealt with WikiLeaks, attacked the Huffington Post's aggregation of others' original work, complained about "media oxpeckers" -- he previously said he'd stopped reading most media blogs on the advice of Ms. Abramson -- and has critiqued Twitter.
"My mistrust of social media is intensified by the ephemeral nature of these communications," Mr. Keller wrote in his column. "They are the epitome of in-one-ear-and-out-the-other, which was my mother's trope for a failure to connect."
Today's news emerged first on Twitter, where WWD reporter John Koblin said several sources had told him Ms. Abramson would be named executive editor today. A complete Times story followed minutes later.