National

Dean Baquet, from New Orleans Reporter to Executive Editor of the New York Times

Dean Baquet, seen here in 2005, has become the New York Times’s first African American executive editor. “He has more fun being an editor than any editor I’ve ever worked for,” says Doyle McManus, who was Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times under Baquet. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP)
Dean Baquet, seen here in 2005, has become the New York Times’s first African American executive editor. “He has more fun being an editor than any editor I’ve ever worked for,” says Doyle McManus, who was Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times under Baquet. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP)

 

(The Washington Post) – There was a bullet in the barroom wall. And the kid reporter had to have it.

It mattered little to Dean Baquet and his reporting partner, another youngster named Jim Amoss, that the owner of this particular French Quarter watering hole was less than enthusiastic about them chiseling into the architecture. The bullet, which had been fired by a rogue cop, would make their story.

So they got their bullet.

Here was Baquet, who became the first African American executive editor of the New York Times on Wednesday after the abrupt firing of his predecessor, in his formative stages, but already in his element. It was a story that required charm and persistence. A story that really mattered. He’d razzed Amoss, now the editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, about writing “sissy features” and pushed him to join him on tougher assignments, Amoss recalled. A bullet in the wall of the Habana Bar on Decatur Street, rogue cops in a prostitution sting. That mattered.

Baquet (pronounced “Ba KAY”) ascends to one of the most prestigious perches in American journalism at age 57. He embodies all sorts of archetypes: He is the prize winner with a Pulitzer for ferreting out City Hall corruption in Chicago. The pioneer who is not just the first African American to lead the New York Times, but also the first to sit atop the masthead of the Los Angeles Times. The martyr who was forced out of Los Angeles for resisting staff cuts.

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