Since then, Kaplan has had five successors (including Capital co-editor Tom McGeveran), making Kurson the sixth editor to top the masthead of the weekly since Kushner bought it from Arthur Carter in 2006. (Disclosure: I worked at the paper from 2008 to 2010.)
He replaces Aaron Gell, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Gell was described in Kushner's memo as having been "interim editor." But as we reported last summer after Gell was promoted following the departure of his predecessor, Elizabeth Spiers, he emphasized in a newsroom meeting he had not accepted the position on an interim basis, but rather that he had agreed to become The Observer's official editor.
"We hope that Aaron stays with the paper in his previous role as Executive Editor," Kushner wrote of Gell this morning, though the Times, also, reported that it was unclear whether he would.
Sources said the newsroom had been expecting that Gell would be replaced sometime in the New Year. One insider suggested he was not aggressive enough about the web, which is an arena in which Kushner has been trying to expand for years.
"It was kind of print first with him," the source said of Gell.
UPDATE: Several sources noted that Gell in fact grew traffic even as the paper's headcount was diminished; he told Capital he's still thinking about whether or not he'll remain at the paper. (More on both of those points here.)
Nevertheless, the Observer bullpen was blinsided by the sudden announcement. They were scheduled to have their first weekly pitch meeting in months at 4 p.m. this afternoon, but now Kurson is scheduled to make an appearance instead.
Some Observer staffers (and the paper's readers, as well) will no doubt be skeptical of Kurson's professional background given his close his ties to the Kushner family and Giuliani, with whom he co-authored a book and worked on a failed presidential campaign. Several Observer alumni retweeted a link to an old profile of Kurson (headlined "Giuliani's Worshipful Scribe, Without Meat or Irony") in the Times in which he told a reporter, "I don't use irony, I don't appreciate irony." The alumni seemed to think that was a significant break from the Observer's signature traits.
Others in the media took to Twitter to recall their relationships with Kurson as an editor and writer and to praise his work.
“People will think what they want,” Kurson told Carr. “I will have to earn their trust. I have had a long and honorable journalistic career, calling it like I see it and being a straight shooter.”
The 44-year-old will now be tasked with running a highly influential newspaper that has nonetheless been a perennial money loser struggling to break out of the red.
Kushner told staff that Observer Media Group revenue was up 25 percent in 2012 and that "our editorial budget is now 50% higher than it was when I bought the company."