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Pomona Alumnus Bill Keller '70 Named to Lead "The New York Times" Through Troubled Times

Bill Keller '70 has been named executive editor of The New York Times effective July 30, assuming the responsibilities currently held by interim Executive Editor Joseph Lelyveld, following a crisis that saw the departure of former Executive Editor Howell Raines after only 21 months in the position.

"I'm honored and exhilarated by the opportunity to lead the finest assembly of journalists in the world," Keller said. "This news organization is a national treasure. I will do everything in my power to uphold its high standards, preserve its integrity and build on its achievements."

Keller, a member of the Pomona College Board of Trustees, is currently an op-ed columnist and a senior writer for The New York Times Magazine. A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Keller has been with the Times since 1984, serving as managing editor from 1997 to 2001 after having been the newspaper's foreign editor from 1995 to 1997. He was the chief of the Times bureau in Johannesburg from 1992 until 1995. He was a Times correspondent in Moscow from 1986 to 1991, spending the last three years as bureau chief there. He won his Pulitzer in 1989 for his coverage of the Soviet Union.

"Bill is a talented journalist, an accomplished manager and a trusted leader," said Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The New York Times and chairman of The New York Times Company. "I am grateful that Bill has accepted this new challenge and am confident that in the years to come, he will help us build on the Times's unparalleled tradition of journalistic excellence. I am also grateful to Joe Lelyveld for having returned to the Times to guide the newsroom over the past month."

Keller assumes the leadership of the newspaper at a tumultuous time in its history, less than two months after the departure of Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd, both of whom were subjected to intense criticism after a Times reporter resigned under scrutiny for allegedly fabricating and plagiarizing stories.

On the day of his appointment (July 14), according to a Times story, Keller had made some comments to the newsroom indicating that his leadership style might be somewhat different from that of Raines, who had spoken frequently of the need for raising the "competitive metabolism" of Times journalists. Keller, the Times report said, noted he did not view journalism as "an endless combat mission," and while it was not his intention to "play defense," he would urge Times reporters and editors to do "a little more savoring" of life, adding: "That will enrich your work as much as a competitive pulse rate will."

In the coming weeks, according to a Times release, Keller plans to evaluate the organization of the newsroom's top management and name additional members of the team that will lead what many consider America's leading newspaper.

Before coming to the Times, Keller had been a reporter for The Dallas Times Herald, The Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report and The Oregonian in Portland. He completed the Advanced Management Program at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2000.

Keller's career in journalism began at Pomona on the staff of the Collegian, the five-college newspaper now called The Collage. During his senior year, he and a friend founded an alternative paper that "existed mainly to indulge our young political leanings," Keller explained during an interview with Pomona College Magazine in 1999. He added that the liberal arts turned out to be an excellent training for a young journalist. "Ostensibly, I majored in English literature," he said. "Actually, I guess I majored in eclectic studies with a minor in serendipity."

In a commencement address delivered before Pomona's graduating class in May 2002, Keller offered advice that is reminiscent of that which he is reported to have offered Times staffers on the morning of his recent appointment. "I expect a lot of you think at least subconsciously, that every good thing that happens in your life is a reward for your talent and hard work, and that every setback is your own fault," he said on that occasion." Perhaps this fills you with existential dread. Well, lighten up."

Keller joined the Board of Trustees of Pomona College in 2000.

  • Read Bill Keller's commencement speech given to the Pomona College Class of 2002.
  • Read the Spring 1999 Pomona College Magazine article, "A Man for his Times," profiling Bill Keller.