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Culture chief quits the New York Times… wait for the dominoes to fall

Jon Landman, the editor in charge of arts and leisure, is leaving the paper. We’ll discuss the consequences in a minute. Here, first, is his message to staff:

I will be taking the buyout and leaving The Times. We all know that the newsroom has to reduce its costs. No less urgent is its responsibility to cultivate a new generation of leaders. My continued presence would help accomplish neither. So it’s time to go.

I’ve never quite believed my good fortune here, a run of blessings too various and extravagant to keep expanding forever. The Times has given me an endless series of astonishing opportunities over the last 26 years, ending with what has to be the best job in journalism. (Out of journalism? Maybe I’d rather have played center field for the Yankees, as long as they’d let me hit leadoff.) To say I have been well treated would be like saying Warren Buffett is well off; the words are true but they don’t begin to capture the scale of the thing.

Landman

Landman, 60, has been a key player in the paper’s recent turmoil. He was a prime agitator in the Jayson Blair affair while editor of the paper’s digital edition. He was appointed culture editor in 2009, having held the job in a temporary capacity a few years before.

He inherited a bloated payroll and a dusty set of sclerotic practices, few of which he managed to change. As arts coverage declined, each artform retained its own separate editor, some of whom did little but intrigue away at the desk. Landman preached renewal and achieved none. He was vigorously involved in the demotion last year of classical music critic, Allan Kozinn, to no notable beneficial effect.

Landman’s departure leaves several section chiefs sorely exposed, first among them the editor in charge of classical music, James Oestreich.

No reason has been given for his exit. Some suspect it may be an anticipation of a shift in tectonic plates since the arrival of ex-BBC chief Mark Thomson as chief executive.

On a collegial level, I found Landman professional, agreeable, curious and amusing. But then I never had to work for him. We exchanged a few courteous emails and shared a leisurely coffee in 2010. I wish him well in his next career.

 

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Comments

  1. Well, he ain’t gonna play centerfield for the NY Yankees…..or the Mets, that’s for sure. Hopefully, Anthony Tommasini doesn’t get screwed now that the team is exposed.

  2. That the head of a unit at the New York Times, age 60, would be forced out, should not be a surprise at any time. The world is going toward the comic book set to iTunes. If PBS’s NOVA can do a documentary on Volcanoes in the manner of The Weather Channel – complete with ominous music and verbal cliff-hangers – the Times, too, must be under the gun to be cute and superficial — exemplified by David Pogue’s cuteness-over-substance performance art. Who does not get with it, gets the air. Hopefully, by the end of this new year, readers will still have something to take in at the Times, without being reminded that TV and its audience of an ever-foreshortening attention span have ruined much of what we know.

  3. James,

    I just have to rise to the defense of David Pogue.

    I’ve never read or viewed anything David has produced at the Times, CBS, and elsewhere that hasn’t put substance over incomprehensibility, impartiality over personal choice, and trustworthiness over any hint of legerdemain.

    The hallmark of his work, however, is an indefatigable sense of delight and wonder and its always done in the manner of All Things Considered’s equally creative Ira Flatow [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ira_Flatow].

    David is no middling musician, either, FYI.

    MPS

  4. Your description of Landman (whom I’ve never met, btw) as a “prime agitator” in the Jayson Blair affair is unnecessarily vague; to Landman’s credit, it should be noted that he was among the first to realize what Blair was up to and that Blair had to be dismissed. About the other aspects of his tenure, I can’t comment.

  5. Jerry Enis says:

    Still holding out for recognition that culturual news occurs in New Jersey at least as much as in Boise.

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