‘Times’ masthead ‘hasn’t had a chance to huddle yet’ about Stelter’s replacement

Brian Stelter. ()
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With Brian Stelter heading to CNN, who will take over The New York Times' TV news beat?

"No successor yet," media editor Bruce Headlam told Capital.

Stelter's move to CNN has been percolating since the summer, when Howard Kurtz left CNN and the network began trying out new talent to fill his Sunday media show, "Reliable Sources."

Stelter was one of several test subjects, which also included NPR's David Folkenflik and POLITICO's Patrick Gavin. With his deep knowledge on the media beat and a telegenic persona, he was seen as a frontrunner from the start.

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But news that Stelter was CNN's top choice didn't leak out until last night, when Joe Flint of The Los Angeles Times reported that he was in "advanced negotiations" with the network.

This morning, POLITICO's Dylan Byers confirmed that Stelter had been hired. CNN followed with a press release that he will be the network's senior media correspondent, reporting on air and for CNN.com, as well as the next "Reliable Sources" host, in which he will go up against Kurtz, now at Fox News, in the 11 a.m. Sunday timeslot.

“Brian has emerged as one of the top media reporters in the country and will be a great addition to our many platforms,” said Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide (and one of Stelter's story subjects over the years), in a statement. “Brian has a keen understanding of this field – as both a journalist covering the industry and as an innovator – first, by creating his own digital platform, and second, by also leveraging the countless ways information is disseminated to enhance his storytelling."

The move is the latest in a series of high-profile departures at the Times, which has been shedding top talent as the prestige gap narrows between establishment print media and disruptive competitors on digital and television platforms.

Nate Silver, for instance, left the paper for ESPN in July, taking the Five-Thirty-Eight brand he built out at the Times with him. At ESPN he's transforming it into a heavily staffed multiplatform monster that will apply the Silver statistical touch to a variety of topics besides politics.

Stelter's exit is a huge loss for the media desk, which he joined in 2007 after being scooped up from TV Newser, the industry blog Stelter started while he was in college. Along with columnist David Carr, he breaks more news than anyone else they have on the beat by a longshot.

Headlam said he hadn't yet "had a chance to huddle with the masthead about what's next."

Over the past few months, Stelter had recused himself from covering CNN and its main competitors. Longtime TV reporter Bill Carter has been pitching in to pick up some of the slack and will continue to do so "with help from others" until a successor is named, said Headlam.

“It is an honor to take the helm of Reliable Sources, the very best of a very small number of programs about the media’s role in society,” said Stelter in a statement provided by CNN. “I’m equally excited about reporting throughout the week on CNN’s many digital platforms and television networks. CNN is reimagining media coverage at what is the best time ever to be covering media, and I’m very happy to be a part of it.”

And here's the memo Headlam sent to Times staff this morning about Stelter:

As you know by now, Brian is leaving The New York Times to take a full-time job with CNN. I can tell you from my talks with Brian over the past couple of days that it was a difficult decision for him and we did our best to make it as agonizing as possible. But in the end, working at a network is just something he felt he had to try and I respect his wishes. The opportunity allows him to see television from the other end, to try to build an audience and -- who knows -- he may even buy a second suit from J. Crew.

We're going to miss Brian. He's been a great reporter, a great colleague and, like so many of you, a great Timesman. And more than that, he's become a great friend. We've learned a lot from Brian over the past seven years and I know that he's learned a great deal from all of you. Hiring him was a big risk and it's paid off better than any of us expected.

As was the case when we hired him, this change allows us to rethink how to approach the television beat and I want to talk to all of you about our next steps. But first, we need to give Brian a proper Media Desk send-off. Stay tuned and in the meantime, everybody here offer him our best wishes. He's earned them.