NEW YORK -- Bernadine Morris, the longtime fashion reporter at the New York Times, is retiring.Morris said Thursday she decided this week to take an early retirement package, effective Sept. 30."It's true. It's just been settled this morning," said Morris. "I began talking to the powers-that-be yesterday and we settled. It's a question of facts and figures, mainly figures."Morris has spent 31 years with the Times."It's such a good deal. You can't afford not to take it. It's not that I'm not going to miss everything. It's something I won't have another chance at," she said.For the first time in years, Morris won't be going to the European collections, which begin next month. Anne-Marie Schiro and Amy Spindler will do all the reporting for the newspaper.Meanwhile, rumors were circulating this week in Paris that Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, was vying for a fashion editor's post at the Times.Reached for comment, Claudia Payne, director of fashion news at the Times, said, "That's a rumor. We've had conversations. It's not anything true at this time."Menkes, who already writes an occasional fashion column for the Times, told WWD, "I have no comment to make. I'm very happy at the International Herald Tribune."Asked about Morris's successor, Payne said, "There will never be a replacement for Bernadine. We do expect to bring the roster back up to three reporters. We have two strong reporters who will work very hard to make sure our coverage stays vigorous and on the news."Beyond that, Payne said, "We don't comment on personnel matters."Discussing her retirement, Morris said, "Thirty-one years at the Times is enough. One might as well leave when one is ahead."Earlier this month, Morris received the Fashion Group International's Superstar award at the Night of Stars gala.Morris joined the Times in 1963 and at first covered what was called women's news -- "fashion, food, furniture and family." Eventually, Morris wrote exclusively about fashion, traveling to Europe four times a year to cover the couture and ready-to-wear shows, as well as the American designer beat.What will Morris do with all her free time?"Absolutely nothing for a while. Then we'll worry about it. Hopefully, something will come up."
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