Bill Keller, the former New York Times executive editor turned columnist, is leaving the Grey Lady to lead a new nonprofit journalism start-up, an announcement that appears to have taken many of his soon-to-be-former colleagues by surprise:
Mr. Keller, 65, will be at The Times through early March before assuming his leadership post at The Marshall Project. Formed late last year by Neil Barsky, a journalist turned Wall Street money manager, The Marshall Project is a nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering criminal justice.
With The Marshall Project, Mr. Barsky said that he hoped to ignite a national conversation about the criminal justice system, just as news media coverage and advocacy groups helped change the country’s views on same-sex marriage. ... The website, scheduled to start in the second quarter of this year, plans to raise money from foundations and individual donors and is modeled on other nonprofit news organizations like ProPublica. Its budget is projected to be about $5 million a year, which would pay for a staff of about 30.
According to Keller, he sees his move as closer to that of Paul Steiger, who led the Wall Street Journal before departing to become the founding editor at ProPublica a half decade ago, than those of Nate Silver and Ezra Klein, young-ish journalism stars who recently left the Times and the Washington Post, respectively, to launch new ventures focused on challenging how journalism is done online.
That personal brand-themed distinction notwithstanding, Keller sounds very much like a man who is eager to embrace the start-up environment that would be foreign to a legacy institution like his current employer. "It’s a chance to build something from scratch, which I’ve never done before," he told the paper, "and to use all the tools that digital technology offers journalists in terms of ways to investigate and to present on a subject that really matters personally."
More on the move here.