New York Times makes Joseph Kahn its 5th Jewish executive editor since 1964

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner assumes newspaper’s top journalist job after working as managing editor

Incoming New York Times Executive Editor Joe Kahn. (Celeste Sloman/The New York Times via AP)
Incoming New York Times Executive Editor Joe Kahn. (Celeste Sloman/The New York Times via AP)

JTA — The New York Times named Joseph Kahn as its next executive editor on Tuesday, the fifth Jewish editor in the position since it was instituted in 1964 as the newspaper’s top journalist job.

Kahn is currently the Times’ managing editor and was widely expected to succeed Dean Baquet, who is retiring at the age of 65, as is Times custom.

“Joseph grew up in the Jewish tradition,” spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha said in an email. “Though he is not a practicing Jew he identifies as Jewish.”

The past Jewish executive editors were A.M. Rosenthal (1977-1986), Max Frankel (1986-1994), Joseph Lelyveld (1994-2001, 2003) and Jill Abramson (2011-2014).

Kahn, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who earned his chops as a foreign correspondent reporting for The Dallas Morning News in China during a turbulent period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, is the son of the late Leo Kahn, a founder of Staples, the office supply giant.

The elder Kahn, who also founded a chain of health food stores that was wrapped into the Whole Foods enterprise, was known for his philanthropy, including promoting Holocaust education, according to his 2011 obituary in the Times. He was born to Lithuanian Jewish immigrants.

Both Kahns, father and son, attended Harvard, and Leo Kahn earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. The Times, in reporting Kahn’s elevation, said father and son enjoyed “dissecting” newspaper coverage together.

The family is Boston-based, and Leo Kahn’s memorial service in 2011 was held at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard.

Joseph Kahn became a leading China reporter, writing dispatches from the country in the 1990s for The Wall Street Journal and the mid-2000s for the Times. His reporting there in 2006 scored his second Pulitzer Prize.

Kahn, who goes by Joe, is close to Baquet, the Times’ first Black executive editor, who will be stepping down by June 14.

The Times is owned by the Ochs-Sulzberger clan, many of whom decades ago stopped identifying as Jewish. A.G. Sulzberger, the current publisher, announced Kahn’s appointment.

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