The Times Exodus  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   June 2002

The Times Exodus   

Three more editorial staffers—Stephen Engelberg, Melinda Henneberger and Sam Howe Verhovek—depart the New York Times.

By Kathryn S. Wenner
Kathryn S. Wenner, a former AJR associate editor, is a copy editor at the Washington Post.     


The paper people rarely used to leave loses more longtime editorial staffers. The latest departures from the New York Times are Investigative Editor Stephen Engelberg, Rome Bureau Chief Melinda Henneberger and Seattle Bureau Chief Sam Howe Verhovek. Engelberg and Verhovek move to other dailies; Henneberger will write a book.

Others who have left in the past year include Atlanta Bureau Chief Kevin Sack, Dining Editor Michalene Busico, Sunday Styles Deputy Editor Ilene Rosenzweig and Styles writer Rick Marin. Though some have suggested that the new regime of Editor Howell Raines is driving people out, the three now heading out the door give compelling reasons for going.

Portland's Oregonian lands Engelberg, 44, who will be managing editor for enterprise reporting. He has just been honored with a third Pulitzer Prize for projects that he has edited, this time for stories published prior to September 11 about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Last year, a book he coauthored with Judith Miller and William J. Broad, "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War," became a No. 1 bestseller. In Portland, Engelberg will be working for an old friend, Editor Sandra Mims Rowe, for whom he worked as a reporter in Norfolk more than 20 years ago.

The Oregonian has also hired Engelberg's wife, Gabrielle Glaser, an Oregon native and a journalist and author who has been teaching feature writing at Columbia University. She'll be a reporter.

Engelberg, who started at the Times in 1983, says he has often stopped in to see Rowe when in Oregon on family trips. "Every now and again she'd mention the possibility, could she tempt me to leave?" he says. "The offer kept getting better and better"--and seemed more so after September 11, he says, when he and many other New Yorkers reassessed their lives.

Not that he didn't love his job at the Times, where his Pulitzer-winning projects included stories about high-tech exports to China and the effects of drug corruption on Mexico. But the Oregonian offers him an opportunity to see what he can accomplish at a strong regional paper "in one of the most modern, beautiful cities," he says. "I really can't imagine any other paper of that size that I would have even considered. The Oregonian is so committed to the investigations that I'm excited by."

Henneberger, 44, quits a coveted European posting, but she's not leaving Italy. Thanks to an article she wrote for the Times Sunday Magazine, the former Washington, D.C., correspondent landed a book contract to write about an Italian art diagnostician's search for a Leonardo da Vinci fresco, "Battle of Anghiari."

"It's the one I was waiting for," Henneberger says of the project. The magazine story was about another da Vinci, "Adoration of the Magi," and the diagnostician's conclusion that the master sketched the "Magi" underdrawing--but didn't apply any of the paint. Henneberger plans to spend the next year shadowing the diagnostician and chronicling his work.

Verhovek, meanwhile, moves to the Los Angeles Times to become a correspondent in Asia. "The opportunity to go overseas is just something that my wife and I, both for us and for our kids, [are] enormously interested in doing," he says. The couple so enjoyed their time in the region 20 years ago, when he was a reporter for the Asahi Evening News in Tokyo and a foreign adviser to the Xinhua News Agency in Beijing, that they want to give their children--ages 14, 11 and 8--the experience of living abroad. Now seems like the right time, Verhovek says.

In his 16 years at the Times, Verhovek, 42, has been based in the Bronx, Albany and Houston, where he covered George W. Bush from the beginning of his first run for governor through his first term. He has also reported from Mexico, India and Fiji. No word yet, he says, on exactly where the L.A. Times will send him.

Verhovek is the latest in a line of Times staffers who've jumped to the left-coast Times in the last two years, including Sack, Busico, former Style editor John Montorio and former National Editor Dean Baquet.

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