MEDIA

New York Times Names Jim Rutenberg Media Columnist After Almost Yearlong Search

Editors looked inside and outside the paper to fill David Carr's perch.
Jim Rutenberg will move four floors down from the magazine's 6th floor to join the paper's media desk.
Jim Rutenberg will move four floors down from the magazine's 6th floor to join the paper's media desk.

NEW YORK -- The New York Times has named magazine writer Jim Rutenberg as the paper's next media columnist, filling a prominent perch that was left vacant nearly a year ago following the death of David Carr. 

"Our hunt for David’s successor has been exhaustive, and we were privileged to have had extraordinary candidates from both inside and outside The Times," Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Business Editor Dean Murphy wrote in a staff memo. "Jim brings to the job a passion for the story, a track record in covering the industry and the experienced eye of an astute observer."

The Times began searching for Carr's successor last spring, speaking early on to writers from New York magazine, Vanity Fair and NPR, as well as journalists inside the paper. But Carr's legacy, as one of the paper's most incisive writers and as a leading ambassador for Times' journalism, prompted editors to be especially deliberate in making a final decision.

HuffPost reported in November that Rutenberg, most recently New York Times Magazine's chief political correspondent, was a contender, but the process was clearly far from over. 

In the memo, Baquet and Murphy wrote that Rutenberg -- a former media reporter for The Times and the New York Observer -- is "returning to his media roots." They recalled his past reporting on the emergence of Fox News and Dan Rather's retracted "60 Minutes" report on George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard. More recently, Rutenberg wrote a Times Magazine cover story on Fox News star Megyn Kelly. 

"That sound you hear is the keening and wailing on the sixth floor,” Times Magazine editor Jake Silverstein is quoted as saying in the memo. “Jim came to the magazine just a couple years ago, but in that short time he's established himself as one of the sharpest longform political writers in the country. We'll miss Jim, even as we watch with excitement and pride as he takes over this critically important franchise."

The column will again run on Mondays in the business section. 

Read the full memo below: 

Our next media columnist: Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times Magazine

He was among the first reporters to recognize the ascendance of Fox News, and helped coin the term “the Fox effect” to describe cable’s tilt to the right. He helped lead the coverage of Dan Rather’s role in a report questioning President Bush’s National Guard service that ended the CBS anchor’s career. And early last year, well before Megyn Kelly had become a lightning rod in the Republican debates, he wrote a magazine profile of the Fox News anchor that captured her contentious and winning formula.

Jim Rutenberg – chief political correspondent for the magazine, investigative reporter, White House correspondent, City Hall bureau chief and erstwhile gossip writer for the Daily News and New York Post – is returning to his media roots.

We are pleased to announce that Jim will be joining BizDay as our media columnist.

Jim takes over the media column almost a year after the passing of David Carr. Our hunt for David’s successor has been exhaustive, and we were privileged to have had extraordinary candidates from both inside and outside The Times. Jim brings to the job a passion for the story, a track record in covering the industry and the experienced eye of an astute observer.

In 2000, The Times hired Jim as a business reporter covering the media industry. He joined us from Peter Kaplan’s media-obsessed The New York Observer, where he wrote about television.

Jim cut his teeth in media reporting before Facebook, Netflix, YouTube and the iPhone revolutionized the industry. Back in those days, much of the beat was focused on covering the then-mighty traditional broadcast networks – and Jim crushed it.   

He made a splash in 2003 with an exclusive about a CBS mini-series that was to present an unflattering view of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. The piece prompted such an angry response from conservatives that CBS dropped the project and sent it to Showtime – a move that left the network open to criticism that it caved to political pressure. That same year, he also gave CBS executives heartburn by breaking a story about attempts by CBS News to secure an exclusive interview with Pfc. Jessica Lynch by floating possible movie and book deals with its corporate siblings at CBS Entertainment and Simon & Schuster. 

He delivered a steady stream of scoops that had network and cable news executives scrambling. There was the juicy story about Peter Jennings being asked to take a pay cut. And the one in which he got Jennings and his two rivals, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, to throw shade at one another as they prepared to compete while covering the party nominating conventions.

In 2004, Jim began his foray into national politics by focusing on the media aspects of the presidential campaign. Among his stories that made waves was his report that Disney was refusing to distribute Michael Moore’s anti-President Bush film, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” allegedly out of fear that Jeb Bush would retaliate against the company by revoking its tax breaks in Florida.

Most recently, Jim spent much of the past year on the magazine’s “Disenfranchised” series, which chronicled the campaign that led to the Supreme Court’s nullification of the Voting Rights Act’s most powerful provision and the consequences for minority voters. His first story, “A Dream Undone,” received a tremendous response, including a letter to the editor from President Obama.

"That sound you hear is the keening and wailing on the sixth floor,” says Jake Silverstein. “Jim came to the magazine just a couple years ago, but in that short time he's established himself as one of the sharpest longform political writers in the country. We'll miss Jim, even as we watch with excitement and pride as he takes over this critically important franchise."

Jim will take up his new position on the 2nd floor in the coming weeks. Even with the keening and wailing, he will also continue contributing to the magazine as well.

-- Dean Baquet and Dean Murphy

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