Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. told staffers at a morning newsroom meeting, the Associated Press reported, ”This is a day that breaks my heart.”
“They have made enormous contributions during their tenure, including an extraordinary seven Pulitzer Prizes in 2002 and another this year,” Sulzberger said in a statement. “I appreciate all of their efforts in continuing the legacy of our great newspaper.”
Former Executive Editor Joseph Lelyveld will replace Raines as interim executive editor. Lelyveld served as executive editor for seven years before retiring in 2001. The Times is not expected to appoint an interim managing editor.
The resignations come after the Times admitted last month that one of its reporters, 27-year-old Jayson Blair, plagiarized some of his stories, made up information in others, and lied to his editors about reporting on location when he hadn’t left New York.
After Blair’s May 1 resignation, the Times put together a 14,000-word report saying the young reporter had “committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud,” and calling the scandal a “low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.” The report also confirmed that Blair continued to work at the Times despite worries from some editors about his ability to perform his duties.
Just weeks later, the Times accepted the resignation of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Bragg after suspending him for a story that carried his byline, but was allegedly reported by an intern who was not given credit on the article.
Raines and Boyd bore much of the criticism that followed the Blair scandal, including accusations that the paper’s management style allowed transgressions like Blair’s to seep through undetected.
Raines addressed some of those concerns during a staff meeting May 14.
“You view me as inaccessible and arrogant,” Raines said. “You believe the newsroom is too hierarchical, that my ideas get acted on and others get ignored. I heard that you were convinced there’s a star system that singles out my favorites for elevation.
“My plan is to have this job and perform it with every fiber in my body as long as this man next to me,” allowed it, Raines said, referring to Sulzberger. At that point, according to an account in The Washington Post, Sulzberger said: “If he were to offer his resignation, I would not accept it.”
In a memo to staff Thursday, Sulzberger struck a different tone.
“Given the events of the last month,” he wrote, “Howell and Gerald concluded that it was best for The Times that they step down. With great sadness, I agreed with their decision.”
In the memo, Sulzberger said the process of selecting a new permanent executive editor “will take some time,” adding that the paper would seek “recommendations for strengthening our newsroom management systems and tightening some of our journalistic practices.”
“This has been a difficult and painful time for all of us,” Sulzberger wrote. “Now our task is to go back to doing what we’re here to do — publishing this great newspaper. Our readers deserve no less.”