Joseph F. Kahn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning China correspondent who rose to lead the international desk of The New York Times, and then as managing editor helped steer the newspaper into the digital era, has been selected to be The Times’s next executive editor, the top newsroom job.
Mr. Kahn, 57, currently the No. 2-ranking editor at The Times, will take on one of the most powerful positions in American media and the global news business. He is to succeed Dean Baquet, whose eight-year tenure is expected to conclude in June.
The announcement was made on Tuesday by the publisher of The Times, A.G. Sulzberger.
“For many people, especially those who have worked alongside Joe — a brilliant journalist and a brave and principled leader — this announcement will come as no surprise,” Mr. Sulzberger wrote in a memo to the Times staff. “Joe brings impeccable news judgment, a sophisticated understanding of the forces shaping the world and a long track record of helping journalists produce their most ambitious and courageous work.”
In elevating Mr. Kahn, Mr. Sulzberger chose a veteran journalist steeped in the values of traditional newspaper reporting and editing to lead an institution undergoing enormous change. After decades devoted to the “daily miracle” of the print edition, The Times is focused on a digital future and competing for audiences around the world.
Mr. Kahn has in recent years spearheaded the paper’s efforts to re-engineer its newsroom for the speed and agility required of modern media. He dismantled the print-focused copy desk, expanded the use of real-time news updates and emphasized visual journalism as much as the written word. He has also led the paper’s international expansion, building out hubs in Europe and Asia.
The newsroom is now wildly different from the one he joined 24 years ago. The Times’s journalism is spread across podcasts, television documentaries, email newsletters and smartphone apps for news, cooking and games. Beat reporters work alongside programmers, data analysts and audience development specialists.
At the same time, The Times is grappling with shifting views about the role of independent journalism in a society divided by harsh debates over political ideology and cultural identity. Mr. Kahn said securing the public’s trust “in a time of polarization and partisanship” was among his top priorities.
“We don’t know where the political zeitgeist will move over time,” Mr. Kahn said in an interview. “Rather than chase that, we want to commit and recommit to being independent.”
He succeeds Mr. Baquet, whose tenure yielded 18 Pulitzer Prizes for The Times, a stretch punctuated by the political rise of Donald J. Trump and a pandemic that disrupted the globe.
Mr. Baquet — who, at 65, has reached the traditional age when executive editors at The Times step down — declined in an interview to comment on his plans. In the memo on Tuesday, Mr. Sulzberger wrote only that Mr. Baquet “will remain at The Times to lead an exciting new venture.”
The first Black executive editor of The Times, Mr. Baquet urged his journalists to pursue investigations that could yield the highest possible impact. He helped steer exposés of Mr. Trump’s decades-long tax avoidance and the sexual misconduct of the Fox News star Bill O’Reilly and the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, reporting that helped usher in a sea change in global attitudes toward workplace behavior.
During Mr. Baquet’s tenure, readership swelled to roughly 10 million digital subscriptions, from 966,000 in early 2014, as Mr. Sulzberger sought to reduce the paper’s reliance on a collapsing advertising market and emphasize revenue from paid subscriptions to the company’s digital products.
Mr. Baquet also navigated controversies inside and outside the paper.
An award-winning podcast, “Caliphate,” was found to have fallen well short of the paper’s journalistic standards. In 2021, the reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. left under pressure after complaints about his use of a racist slur during a Times-sponsored trip for high school students. Newsroom employees called for a more aggressive commitment to diversifying the staff. The newspaper, traditionally accused of bias by some conservatives, faced criticism from some liberals about its coverage.
Mr. Kahn, who was promoted to managing editor in 2016, is among Mr. Baquet’s closest confidants. But while Mr. Baquet is known for an outgoing and casual style, Mr. Kahn is more reserved. Part of his challenge will be engaging with a news operation of about 1,700 employees — the largest in The Times’s 171-year history — some of whom have never worked in the office because of the pandemic.
Mr. Kahn grew up outside Boston, the eldest child of the entrepreneur Leo Kahn, a retailing pioneer who started supermarket chains in the Northeast and was a founder of Staples, the chain of office-supply superstores. Leo Kahn earned a journalism degree from Columbia University and worked briefly as a reporter before his success in business, and he often dissected newspaper coverage with his son.
Joseph Kahn edited his high school’s paper and went on to serve as president of Harvard’s undergraduate daily, The Crimson, before graduating in 1987 with a degree in history. He briefly covered Plano, Texas, for The Dallas Morning News. But inspired by a professor’s observation that China could be the great story of the next decade, Mr. Kahn re-enrolled at Harvard in a master’s program for East Asian studies and began learning Mandarin.
By 1989, he was writing freelance articles from Beijing for The Morning News. After covering the Tiananmen Square protests, he persuaded his editors in Dallas to keep him in China as a correspondent. His reporting was not without risks: He was detained by the Chinese authorities at one point and ordered to leave the country. In 1994, he shared in a Pulitzer Prize awarded to The Morning News for international reporting.
By then, Mr. Kahn had been hired by The Wall Street Journal, where he was assigned to Shanghai. After a stint as the editor and publisher of The Far Eastern Economic Review, a now-defunct weekly owned by The Journal’s parent company, Dow Jones, Mr. Kahn jumped to The Times in 1998.
He covered Wall Street and economics before moving back to Shanghai; in 2003, he became the paper’s Beijing bureau chief. He spent the next five years in China, sharing another Pulitzer, in 2006, with the Times correspondent Jim Yardley for an investigation into China’s flawed legal system.
Mr. Kahn returned to New York in 2008 as a deputy foreign editor and was appointed international editor in 2011. He oversaw a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation in 2012 into the hidden wealth of China’s ruling elite, prompting the Chinese authorities to block access to The Times’s website and expel some of its journalists.
In elevating Mr. Kahn to managing editor, Mr. Baquet described his charge in bold terms: “to lead our efforts to build The Times of the future, and to grapple with questions of what we cover going forward.”
In recent remarks at an internal Times gathering, Mr. Kahn laid out some priorities.
He cited maintaining editorial independence in an age of polarization. He reiterated a commitment to build a work force that represented diversity of thought, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds. And he charted an ambitious path for The Times’s place in the news business, saying the paper should consider itself a direct competitor to dozens of news outlets, ranging from global television networks like CNN and the BBC to niche upstarts like The Marshall Project and The Information.
The Times’s journalistic and financial moves are scrutinized by the news industry and beyond, and Mr. Kahn’s early decisions as executive editor will be no exception. Mr. Sulzberger, a descendant of Adolph Ochs, who bought The Times in 1896, said in his memo that he was comfortable entrusting the future of his family’s newspaper to Mr. Kahn.
“This remains a period of constant change,” the publisher wrote. “Joe’s intellect, sound judgment and steadiness under fire make him the perfect editor to build on this hard-won momentum and lead the newsroom through the challenges still ahead.”
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