Bill Keller, Former Top Editor of 'New York Times,' Leaving Paper for Nonprofit

AP Photo
Bill Keller

Keller, who has been a columnist for the paper since 2011, will be editor-in-chief of a criminal justice news startup.

The New York Times columnist Bill Keller is departing the newspaper to become editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news startup that covers the U.S. criminal justice system.

Keller also was executive editor of The Times from 2003-2011. Prior to that, he served as Moscow and Johannesburg bureau chief, foreign editor and managing editor.

Andrew Rosenthal, editor of The Times' editorial page, told the paper that he was surprised that Keller was leaving.

"But what an amazing opportunity," Rosenthal said. "If you want to do something new, this is a great area. My first thought, and this is purely self-centered, is that having another source of information on criminal justice is a great thing."

Keller, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1988, also has worked at the Oregonian, Congressional Quarterly and The Dallas Times Herald. He begins his new role March 1, with the goal to begin publishing some time in the second quarter of 2014.

The Marshall Project, which is set to launch this year, announced the news of Keller's hire on its website Sunday.

"The Marshall Project is an irresistible opportunity to take some of what I've learned from The Times' past decade of reinvention to learn some new things, and to build a modern journalistic enterprise from scratch," Keller said. "The New York Times has given me some of the best jobs in journalism and many of the best colleagues. I'm deeply grateful for the adventures and the lessons and the camaraderie of the world's finest news organization, and I'm proud to think I played some part in securing its future."

The Marshall Project was founded by former hedge fund manager Neil Barsky, who will serve as publisher. Barsky is also a former Wall Street Journal reporter and directed the 2012 documentary Koch.

"Our goal is to create a first-class news organization that will spark a national conversation about the troubled U.S. criminal justice system," Barsky said. "Bill Keller's career as a reporter, editor and columnist exemplifies the principles of intellectual independence, fairness and creativity that will help The Marshall Project have an immediate impact."

The Marshall Project says it will have an annual operating budget of $4 million to $5 million and a full-time staff of 20 to 25 journalists. Funding will come from foundations and individuals.