Changes afoot in ‘New York Times’ European bureaus

The New York Times building. (wallyg via flickr)
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The New York Times' foreign desk today announced a handful of staffing changes in its European bureaus involving some of the paper's most recognizable bylines.

For starters, Steve Erlanger is replacing John F. Burns as London bureau chief; Burns will remain in the U.K. "turning his focus to enterprising stories about the world of sports," according to a memo.

Alissa Rubin is transitioning out of Afghanistan to take over the Paris bureau, previously manned by Erlanger.

Jim Yardley will be replacing Rachel Donadio in Rome in another few months (Donadio's next move is yet to be determined.)

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And Alison Smale, longtime editor of the Times' sister global edition, The International Herald Tribune, "will take on the considerable challenge of covering Germany," replacing Nick Kulish as Berlin bureau chief. Kulish is bound for East Africa to fill in there while Jeffrey Gettleman is on book leave.

It's common for bureau chiefs to rotate out every few years. But these latest changes are the first such moves since the Times Company announced in February it would be re-branding the Paris-based IHT as The International New York Times in a bid to consolidate and strengthen its brand overseas.

The full memo is below:

Staff Changes in Europe

As we ramp up our coverage of Europe with our new integrated reporting team, we are excited to announce some staffing changes that will enhance our reporting there. Around the time Dick Stevenson takes over as our top Europe-based editor this summer, several of our bureaus will also change hands. It is not a short list, so please bear with us. Read more in this note from Joe Kahn, Michael Slackman, Marc Lacey and Dick Stevenson.

LONDON During his five years as our bureau chief in London, John Burns has in his ever fluent prose kept us ahead on an unending barrage of stories that resonate far and wide — the London riots, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, the Murdoch scandal, Cameron and austerity, the Olympics and the Queen's Jubilee. Now, John has helped craft a new position that will allow us to tap his eclectic talents. He will remain our Chief Foreign Correspondent, based in the UK, while turning his focus to enterprising stories about the world of sports. This will include Formula 1, a lifelong passion of John's. It will also include European football and the personalities, egos and scandals that drive world sports and that John can write about with his trademark sweep and perspective. This new endeavor will be directed by Jason Stallman of Sports as part of our upgraded international sports coverage, but foreign will still call on him to return to his global stomping grounds of the past three decades, from Kabul to Beijing and beyond, where his voice adds immeasurably to our report.

To replace John in London we will turn to Steve Erlanger. Steve has been the anchor of our Europe crisis coverage almost since the moment he stepped foot in Paris five years ago. Whether it was all-night European summitry, the missing European "Lehman" moment or the new French enthusiasm for investing in cows, Steve has told of Europe's problems and passions with unrelenting energy. He is no newcomer to London, having served there for The Boston Globe in the 1980s, and he is the ideal candidate to cover Britain's role in the world as it drifts further away from the crisis-ridden continent.

PARIS Our next Paris Bureau Chief will be Alissa Rubin. Alissa calls Paris her home base now, but she has spent her career at The Times, which began in 2007, on war rotations in the combat zones of Baghdad and Kabul. She is one of the leading war correspondents in the world, and she delivered some of the most memorable stories on the conflicts after slipping through checkpoints with her hair in a headscarf. Alissa's portraits of how the half of the Iraq and Afghanistan population that is not male experienced war and its aftermath, like her award-winning piece on female suicide bombers in Iraqi prison, are milestones of modern war journalism. Just as notably, she selflessly ran safe and productive bureaus in the most dangerous conditions, earning the loyalty of her colleagues. She now has the opportunity to work where she lives and we know she will bring her wide array of journalistic skills to bear on France, the center of our revamped European operation.

In Kabul, Alissa will hand the baton as bureau chief to her longtime colleague Rod Nordland, who has agreed to stay on in Afghanistan through the winding down of U.S. combat operations there in 2014. Rod, himself a veteran of conflict stories, will ensure a smooth transition, as he and Alissa have worked closely together in managing the bureau. We are confident that Rod's proven instinct for the most impactful, human Afghan stories will continue to distinguish our coverage there through the uncertain endgame in America's longest war.

ROME Rome is also in transition. Rachel Donadio presided over one of the newsiest periods in Italian history these past five years. Historic gridlock in parliament, an acute economic crisis, the turmoil in Europe's south, and then a new pope — and she still has a few months to go. Pope Francis may not be too upset that she's moving on, especially after her news-breaking coverage of Vatileaks, sexual abuse, banking problems and other scandals that dogged his predecessor. We plan to announce Rachel's next step shortly.

First in China, then in India, her successor in Rome, Jim Yardley, has earned his place as one of our most respected and seasoned foreign correspondents. Jim can do it all, and in India he did, like his trenchant series on the obstacles to faster growth in India, and his investigative work on abuses in the rising textile industry in neighboring Bangladesh. He got a head start in Rome last month and showed how he will translate those skills. Take a look at the unexpected gem he delivered on the day the new pope was named, as he stood in St. Peter's square with two Roman priests.

BERLIN Finally, we have already announced that Alison Smale, the longtime editor of the IHT, will take on the considerable challenge of covering Germany as its power — and its particularities — take center stage in Europe. She will replace Nick Kulish, who on his second tour in Berlin explained how Germany's economics keep defying European gravity, while its politics become more and more local. Few have been able to translate the technicalities of the issues tearing the region apart as lucidly as Nick. He is now preparing to try his hand at covering East Africa, filling in for Jeffrey Gettleman for nine months while Jeffrey is on book leave. We will announce his next longer term assignment after that.

Along with Andy Higgins in Brussels, Sarah Lyall in London, Suzanne Daley's roving eye and our colleagues at the IHT, we have been lucky to have such an outstanding team in Europe. And we're thrilled that we have a deep pool of talent to continue the tradition.

Joe, Michael, Marc & Dick