Earlier today James Bennet accepted my offer to become the 14th editor in The Atlantic's 150-year run. For those who don't know James or his work, I'll offer the quickest narrative. James is a Washingtonian, educated first at St. Albans and then at Yale. Taking a path followed by some of the great journalists of our times (Jim Fallows, Nick Lemann, Michael Kinsley), James began his writing and editing career under Charlie Peters at the Washington Monthly. His climb through the ranks of the New York Times, thereafter, has been vertical: metro reporter, Detroit bureau chief, White House correspondent, Sunday Magazine staff writer, Jerusalem bureau chief and, now, studying Chinese preparing for reassignment to Beijing. Not irrelevant to The Atlantic, James is among the Times' most respected long-form writers.
Beginning last April, I began traveling the country and asking advice on the extreme talent today in American journalism. Though hardly all were candidates themselves, just under eighty editors and writers spent time with me, offering names, offering counsel.
The deliberate search did have this advantage. Seeing so many professionals of exceptional talent, you begin to get a "lock" on the nature and character and talent that you think would best fit the organization. Even before I met James in this round, I had a view of what a James might be. Here, and in particular, I wanted a profound and extreme talent who led quietly, was generous to others, and comported himself with collegial respect. On all scores, but surely these, I have conviction on James' appointment.