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At the Times, a Lower-Key Editor Returns

June 7, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ A day after his predecessor quit, New York Times interim executive editor Joseph Lelyveld appealed to employees to air their gripes _ a freedom that some felt had been discouraged under previous leadership.

Lelyveld, who was introduced by Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., spoke to the staff Friday during yet another emotional morning session in the third-floor newsroom where executive editor Howell Raines announced his departure the day before.

Raines has acknowledged that he was viewed as the imperious steward of a star system during his 20 months as executive editor.

The 66-year-old Lelyveld, who retired from the Times’ top editing job in September 2001 to make way for Raines, addressed the staff for about 10 minutes, reading from notes. He took no questions.

In a light moment that drew laughs, Lelyveld said football metaphors were out and baseball metaphors back in at the Times. Raines was a devotee of the late Alabama football coach Bear Bryant; Lelyveld is better known for taking in a Yankees game.

On Thursday, Raines and managing editor Gerald M. Boyd resigned from the paper _ done in by the plagiarism scandal involving reporter Jayson Blair.

Lelyveld, executive editor from 1994 to 2001, was hurriedly called back to work. Well-respected during his tenure, he is a considered a lower-key leader who directs coverage through channels by working through his deputies and department heads.

It was unclear whether Lelyveld’s arrival would hasten efforts by the paper and its staff to move beyond the upheaval.

``A schism has been opened that will not be easily mended,″ photo editor Karen Cetinkaya wrote in an e-mail to a media Web site. She blamed ``insistent and incessant whiners″ and ``off-the-record snipers″ for bringing down Raines and Boyd.

Blair resigned on May 1, before the Times published an unprecedented four-page chronicle of his misdeeds, including plagiarized stories and fiction presented as fact.

A second incident, involving national correspondent Rick Bragg’s heavy use of a freelancer to report a feature he wrote on Florida oystermen, set off another controversy. Bragg resigned on May 28.

Early speculation about Raines’ successor focused on a few candidates: Bill Keller, a former Times managing editor and a current Times columnist and magazine writer; Dean Baquet, a former Times editor now the managing editor of the Los Angeles Times; and Martin Baron, editor of The Boston Globe, a Times company, and a former Times staffer himself.

Both Baron and Baquet, in interviews with their own papers, said they had not spoken with the Times about the executive editor’s job.

``I really love being the managing editor of the Los Angeles Times,″ Baquet said. Baron said simply, ``I’m happy here.″

Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said Thursday that the paper would look both ``inside the Times and outside.″

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