New York Times in talks with Atlantic’s James Bennet to return in senior role

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The Times building. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
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The New York Times has recently been trying to bring James Bennet, a former Times reporter and current editor of The Atlantic, back to the paper, POLITICO has learned from multiple sources either inside the Times or with close ties to its newsroom.

It’s unclear how serious the discussions are or what sort of possible job has been talked about, but some sources familiar with the matter said Bennet is believed to be under consideration for a big newsroom role, and the possibility has created buzz in the newsroom in recent days.

Bennet has been editor in chief of The Atlantic for the past 10 years. His previous Times tour lasted from 1991 to 2006 and spanned positions from White House correspondent to Jerusalem bureau chief.

Over the past couple of years, the Times has been reconfiguring its leadership ranks both on the business side and in the newsroom as the company has been transforming itself to respond to the rapidly changing media environment. Sources speculated that Bennet could potentially assume an important digital role, since The Atlantic has seen digital success under his leadership.

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If Bennet were to return to the Times in a high-ranking position, sources said, it could even put him in line to succeed executive editor Dean Baquet, for whom there is no single clear heir apparent among the newsroom’s senior leaders.

This would not be the first time there has been an attempt to lure Bennet back.

When Baquet’s predecessor, Jill Abramson, was executive editor several years ago, she tried to hire Bennet for a digitally focused masthead position, and new CEO Mark Thompson even tried to convince Bennet to take the gig, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

But Bennet was hesitant because it wasn't clear to him that the somewhat nebulous position he was being offered would come with significant stature or impact, the source said.

Bennet did not respond Saturday to emails seeking comment. The Times declined to comment.

—Hadas Gold contributed reporting to this article.