Bill Keller, the former executive editor of The New York Times, announced Sunday that he will be leaving his current position as Times columnist to take the editor in chief position at The Marshall Project, a nonprofit journalism startup primarily reporting on the American criminal justice system.
Keller is arguably the most powerful Times defector of the digital age — in terms of pure leadership and media influence — if not the most famous (that would be Nate Silver).
The Marshall Project was founded by Neil Barsky, who made his money as a hedge fund manager but whose eclectic career has spanned both journalism and film. He left The Wall Street Journal for finance in his 30s, and told Fortune magazine, “I loved getting up in the morning, looking in the mirror and saying, ‘I’m a journalist.’ I took no great joy in saying, ‘I’m an analyst’ or ‘I’m a hedge fund manager.'”
Keller, at 65, is a bit older than the average startup employee (or most employees, for that matter), but his return to management will give media bloggers a break from endlessly pummeling his opinion columns. Most recently, Keller has been in hot water for an op-ed questioning the value of cancer patient’s Lisa Boncheck Adams’ prodigious Twitter account.
The blog-o-sphere, to say the least, was not pleased.
The Marshall Project will officially launch in the spring, with a business model similar to ProPublica — the nonprofit journalism startup which became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer prize in 2010.