Jumping the Pond  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   December/January 2004

Jumping the Pond   

The New York Times' Foreign Editor Alison Smale becomes managing editor of the International Herald Tribune.

By Lori Robertson
Lori Robertson (robertson.lori@gmail.com), a former AJR managing editor, is a senior contributing writer for the magazine.      


In a series of discussions with top New York Times editors, deputy foreign editor Alison Smale says she pointed out how European she was--what with fluency in French, Russian and German and a résumé that includes stints in Bonn, Vienna and Moscow. Yet, she says she honestly didn't expect what now seems an obvious fit: a promotion to managing editor of the International Herald Tribune.

"It's a tremendous thrill," says Smale of the move to the Times' overseas publication--a paper that for 35 years, until late 2002, had been a joint venture with the Washington Post. (The Post reluctantly sold its share to the Times.)

Smale, 48, joined the Times in 1998 as assistant foreign editor, becoming deputy foreign editor in 2002. She began her journalism career as a foreign correspondent in 1978, working in Bonn for United Press International. In 1981, she switched wires--reporting for the Associated Press out of Bonn, Moscow and, finally, Vienna, as the bureau chief for most of Eastern Europe.

In her new post, she's the No. 2 news executive at the Paris-based IHT, replacing Walter Wells, who became executive editor.

The Times' Tim Weiner, a correspondent based in Mexico City, gives Smale high praise for her work with far-flung staffers. "She's smart as hell, totally reliable, calm in a storm, fiercely supportive of tempest-tossed reporters," Weiner says. "She is one of those editors that reporters have faith in, because by instinct and temperament, she's one of us. It's good to hear her voice on the other end of the phone when you're in a place like Liberia or Afghanistan, and I'm going to miss that voice."

Smale will make the move with her husband, a Russian pianist and composer, and their 11-year-old daughter. In the job she'll be expected to guide the paper through whatever changes the Times has in store, now that it's the sole owner. "These plans are under constant discussion and evolving all the time," she says when asked for any specifics. "But what is very, very clear is that we're going to do something. This is very much a part of the New York Times family, and we look forward to making it an even greater newspaper."

Smale's transition is one of many since Bill Keller took over as executive editor of the Times in July. Among the recent moves: Daniel Okrent, a former editorial executive at Time Inc., was anointed the Times' first public editor. In his column, Okrent will comment on general journalism issues and specific practices at the paper. Business Editor Glenn Kramon was named the Times' first associate managing editor for career development, and William E. Schmidt, associate managing editor for personnel and newsroom administration, was named assistant managing editor for resources and planning.

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