Carolyn Ryan named ‘Times’ D.C. bureau chief

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Carolyn Ryan, David Leonhardt. ()
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New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson is recalibrating the newspaper's Washington coverage with a series of staff changes that address the exit of 538 star Nate Silver, the success of POLITICO's morning tip sheet, and the seemingly outdated previous structure of the newspaper's politics report and D.C. bureau, which until today were two separate entities.

At the very top, Carolyn Ryan will replace David Leonhardt as the paper's Washington bureau chief, a move first reported by POLITICO's Dylan Byers. (Disclosure: This website was acquired in September by Robert Allbritton, owner of POLITICO; the two sites share key executives.)

Ryan will not be replaced as national politics editor. Rather, as Abramson noted in a staff memo announcing the moves this morning, it no longer makes sense to keep them separate. Ryan will "reintegrate" the national politics and Washington desks.

But more importantly, the structural overhaul frees two key Washington players for the Times to address the changing nature of journalistic competion in the capital.

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Abramson announced two new "start ups" out of D.C. in her memo.

"The first of these new ventures will be at the nexus of data and news and will produce clear analytical reporting and writing on opinion polls, economic indicators, politics, policy, education, and sports," she wrote. "The second start up is an early morning news tip sheet that sets up the Washington day for our readers."

The first will be run by Leonhardt, and appears to fill the hole left by the departure of star statistician Nate Silver, whose 538 franchise moved to ESPN earlier this fall.

The second will be overseen by Carl Hulse, who has been named managing editor of the tip sheet as well as chief Washington correspondent, replacing David Sanger, who is moving on to cover cyberwarefare and national security.

Leonhardt, with his strong business background and a Pulitzer for commentary under his belt, was seen as a curious choice for the Times' top D.C. post when he was appointed in 2011.

Ryan, on the other hand, has been a rising star in the Times' political orbit. She had been the paper's metro editor before getting the politics editorship back in May, and had overseen the desk's blockbuster coverage of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal in 2009.

Abramson reorganized the top of the Times masthead shortly after becoming executive editor. More recently, she announced a series of leadership changes over the summer, the most notable being Sam Sifton's move from national editor to new assigments developing a food vertical and a digital magazine.

Just last week, Capital broke the news that Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren is stepping down from his post at the end of the year and Abramson is now on the hunt for his successor.

UPDATE: The names of some of the people who will be joining Leonhardt in his new venture trickled out on Twitter this afternoon. They include Times graphics editor Amanda Cox; Nat Cohn from The New Republic; author-historian Michael Beschloss; and Brookings Fellow Justin Wolfers.

And job-seekers take note:

Abramson's full memo to staff on the changes below:

Dear Colleagues,

With the 2014 election cycle about to gain full speed, I'm thrilled to announce the launch of two newsroom start ups as well as the appointment of a new Washington Bureau Chief, Carolyn Ryan.

The first of these new ventures will be at the nexus of data and news and will produce clear analytical reporting and writing on opinion polls, economic indicators, politics, policy, education, and sports. Several months ago, a newsroom committee set out to find a leader and an innovator who is comfortable with numeracy and adept at finding the story in the numbers. All roads led to David Leonhardt, who will be the Managing Editor of this start up. David will manage a newly assembled team of reporters, graphics editors, economists, historians and political scientists. After a successful run as Washington Bureau Chief, David returns to his roots: explaining complicated stuff to our readers in his own engaging voice. Under David's leadership of the Washington Bureau our coverage continued to lead on everything from the Supreme Court to National Security. He has revamped our economic coverage and transformed the Washington report on the web.

The second start up is an early morning news tip sheet that sets up the Washington day for our readers, much as the popular New York Today report does for our readers in the metropolitan area. It will point out events and stories of interest in the political realm and be written with voice and edge. It will harvest the best tweets of bureau reporters and aggregate other elements from the Washington news report. The Managing Editor of this start up has to be someone who knows every cranny of the Capitol and the inside dope about Congress and the White House. The editor also has to have perfect pitch for what is interesting and important and for how to separate this from all the noise out there. The best candidate for this job was just as obvious: Carl Hulse. Carl will not only be Managing Editor of this start up, he will also continue to write agenda-setting pieces for the home and front pages as Chief Washington Correspondent.

David Sanger, who held that distinction for seven years writing on a range of issues from the global economy to terrorism will now concentrate on cyber warfare and national security issues.

The work of the start ups (both to be named later) will be done by existing and new staff. There will be more to say on that soon.

Carolyn Ryan, an inspired and energetic editor with an eye for talent will become our new Washington Bureau Chief. Carolyn's leadership skills and her deep understanding of politics have been evident in our coverage of countless high-impact stories, like the New York City mayoral race and the downfall of Eliot Spitzer. A former deputy managing editor of The Boston Globe, she has proven herself as a leader of our most sensitive political reporting. She has also mastered policy issues, like health and the environment. Her tenure as political editor has already resulted in agenda-setting pieces and fantastic new hires. Since it no longer makes sense to separate political coverage from the rest of the Washington report, Carolyn will reintegrate them, coordinating a team of reporters in New York as well as the entire Washington bureau.

These changes will take effect Dec. 15.

— Jill

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Leonhardt was appointed by Abramson's predecessor, Bill Keller, to lead the D.C. bureau. The appointment was in fact Abramson's. We regret the error.