Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, said in a memo to staff that Needleman “has decided” to leave the company. In the interim, executive editor Whitney Vargas will step in as editor in chief. According to a spokeswoman from The Times, Baquet will “be conducting a search, both internally and externally, for a successor.”
He told WWD separately: “I’d like to move quickly. But this is a big job and an important franchise. So I’m reluctant to say when a final decision will he made.”
Baquet added that he would consult with Needleman and Vargas, as well as managing editor Minju Pak, on potential successors.
In his note sent on Monday, Baquet said of Needleman: “I’ll let her tell you what she will do next, but it mainly consists of taking a break and enjoying more of the world that T so vibrantly covers. She has built a tremendous staff, and they will continue producing one of the world’s most beautiful magazines while we decide who will succeed her.”
Needleman, who came to T from WSJ Magazine where she served as editor, infused a strong design aesthetic with a focus on interiors and photography. Her departure is a big blow to T, which had ratcheted up fashion and culture credibility under her oversight. She had brought in top talent such as deputy editor Hanya Yanagihara and fashion director at large Joe McKenna, both of whom exited the magazine in 2016 and 2015, respectively, as well as chief fashion correspondent Alexander Fury. Needleman also brought in Isabel Wilkinson from The Cut to work on T’s web site.
“It would have been enough for T to be just aesthetically pleasing, a place for great photography, stunning interiors,” Baquet continued. “But Deborah turned it into something much more. It featured — even championed — artists whose work could be difficult. It discovered writers and published poetry. Under Deborah, T ceaselessly explored the landscape of art and culture.”
T had served as a revenue generator for The Times, but recently, it lost some ground as the print advertising environment continued to show steep declines for publishers across the board.
The glossy had been under the gun following the departure of top publishing talent in the luxury advertising division at The Times. The luxury supplement lost its publisher Brendan Monaghan in 2015 to Condé Nast Traveler. It took nearly six months to name his replacement, Elizabeth Webbe Lunny, formerly of Women’s Health. That changing of the guard impacted advertising, according to insiders, who added that there had been some tension between the publisher and Needleman, hinting that the strained relationship may have played into the editor’s decision to depart the Times.
Needleman could not be reached for comment.
Catch up on the week’s top fashion news here: