The New York Times announced late last month that it was promoting Cliff Levy from metro editor/assistant managing editor to be one of five deputy managing editors on the upper reaches of the masthead.
But more than a week later, his name has yet to appear in the masthead printed on page 2 of the paper each day, where he would be expected to appear with the other high masthead editors just below executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joe Kahn.
And the absence has raised eyebrows.
When queried, a Times spokeswoman said only, “He’s in an interim assignment advising the audio team and will assume his new position in the coming weeks.”
But some media observers are questioning whether the delay might have to do with the audio unit Levy will be overseeing in his new role, which is currently headed by Sam Dolnick, an assistant managing editor who also happens to have added clout as a scion of the family that controls the board. Publisher A.G. Sulzberger is a first cousin.
The unit Dolnick supervises recently gave back a Peabody award for its 12-part podcast series “Caliphate,” which was discredited after a main source was arrested by Canadian authorities in September for pretending to have ties to terrorist groups. Instead of being a reformed ISIS executioner in Syria, Shehroze Chaudhry appears to have been a fabulist suburbanite from the Toronto area who never set foot in Syria.
Until the announcement of the Levy promotion, Dolnick and the metro editor held the same rank. Now as one source close to the situation said, “Sam essentially has a new boss. Cliff was sent there to clean up the mess.”
After wrapping up a two-month investigation into the podcast in December, Baquet moved the star reporter on the series, Rukmini Callimachi, to an as-yet undetermined new assignment and said she would not be returning to the terrorism beat. Corrections now appear appear tied to the series on The Times’ web site.
The Overseas Press Club also rescinded a Lowell Thomas award that it had bestowed on the now discredited series.
Meanwhile, audio producer Andy Mills, a driving force on the project and Callimahci’s sidekick on the series, also appears to have been sidelined. His internal Slack account and NYT email were recently disabled, according to a tweet by Yashar Ali.
Mills responded by texting a reporter on Business Insider to say he was still “employed at the NYT” and not on any kind of leave. But Media Ink was unable to reach him and emails to his NYT account bounced back. He has has not tweeted since late December.
But Dolnick, the man who was in charge at the time of the Caliphate screw-up, remains in charge of the audio division, which could rile the ranks. “If Sam was not a first cousin to the Sulzbergers, he would have been kicked to the far corners of the building by now,” one former insider groaned.
Dolnick could not be reached for comment. A Times spokeswoman said she had no update on Mills status — but did not confirm exactly what that status is.