Jill Abramson’s First Task: Stop the Times Defections

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Photo: Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

When Jill Abramson replaces Bill Keller at the end of the summer, she will not only be the first female executive editor to run the Grey Lady, but the first Times editor who will have to really sweat keeping the paper's talented journalists from jumping ship. Today, news broke that two more senior Times staffers are decamping: Two-time Pulitizer winner David Rohde, who was held for seven months in Afghanistan by the Taliban before escaping, is taking a job at Reuters. Meanwhile, Times Magazine editor Chris Suellentrop is leaving for Yahoo! News.

The departures follow a string of surprising defections that have buffeted the Times in recent months. Over the past year, the paper has lost "Sunday Business" editor Tim O'Brien to the Huffington Post along with fellow business reporter Peter Goodman, Dexter Filkins to the New Yorker, Miguel Helft to Fortune, and Frank Rich to this magazine, among others. The moves, taken together, represent a rare exodus at the Times, historically a magnet for ambitious talent.

When I spoke to Abramson just hours after her appointment was announced, she told me that hanging onto staff was going to be one of her first orders of business when she takes the reins. "Retention is becoming a challenge," she said. "The economy has improved, whether it's Bloomberg or the Huffington Post, I can feel on any given week that I'm playing whack-a-mole keeping our most talented people."