NEW YORK, United States — Former Gawker editor Choire Sicha has been named editor of the New York Times Styles section, multiple sources have confirmed to BoF. (A spokesperson for the Times would not confirm or comment. Sicha did not respond to an email request for comment.)
The news, first reported by Vanity Fair, confirms industry chatter that Sicha, currently on the leadership team at Vox Media, was one of three candidates being considered by executive editor Dean Baquet to replace outgoing Styles editor Stuart Emmrich.
Sources inside the Times say that while Sicha was long the favoured choice above internal candidate Jim Windolf (current men's style editor of the section) and Lori Leibovich, editor of Time Inc.'s Realsimple.com, some were concerned that Sicha, whose work at Gawker and The Awl helped to define the voice of internet-era journalism, would deviate too much from the Styles' current, if oft-ridiculed, formula. Which, by the way, Sicha has himself skewered time and again over the years.
But regardless of whether or not the section is in desperate need of an editorial refresh, top editors involved in hiring for the position — including Baquet, food editor Sam Sifton and Trish Hall, who works on "new projects" — were eager to hire someone with a deep understanding of digital publishing. (The Cut's Stella Bugbee was offered the position earlier this year, but chose to remain at the New York Magazine-owned brand, where she has now been promoted to president.)
In addition to starting on the ground floor at pioneering online tabloid Gawker and founding zeitgeist-y culture-and-humour publication the Awl, Sicha has also spent the last year at Vox Media, where he manages partnerships with social-media platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat. As video increases in priority for every publication, but especially mass publications, understanding how these platforms — where most video is watched — operate has never been more important.
He is also a wildly admired writer, whose well-circulated 2015 Eater profile of American cooking show star Ina Garten could easily fit onto the pages of a reinvented Styles section.
What Sicha does not have is a background in news or fashion, which plays into the speculation that the paper may split the section into "Styles" and "Fashion", more akin to how the food section is split into "Cooking" and "Restaurants". This split would allow the fashion section to develop its news operation further — something that has been encouraged by senior editors who want to see more A1 fashion stories —and perhaps also allow for further development on the commercial side. In 2015, the paper launched a monthly men's style section, which was seen as a bid to woo more advertisers.
A spokesperson at the Times did not respond to a request for comment regarding this potential shift.
Update — July 31 2017: In a memo to staff, New York Times editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joseph Kahn announced the appointment of Choire Sicha as the editor of the newspaper's Styles section. The memo confirmed that Sicha would begin his new role after Labor Day.
The memo in full: "We are pleased to announce that Choire Sicha, one of the finest features editors of his generation, will be the new editor of Styles.
"Several months ago, a team of Times editors began the search for a successor to Stuart Emmrich, who built the modern Styles report. We interviewed dozens of editors inside and outside of the building, and reviewed memos from a broad list of candidates, all of whom said they would do anything to get one of the most important features jobs in American journalism.
"Choire was chosen based on his vision for adding urgency, different forms of storytelling, and an additional bit of edge to the Styles report. We know the selection of Choire leaked out last week, which we regret. But if you review the social media traffic you could see the praise for Choire. He is an editor known for nurturing the voices of writers. As Mark Armstrong wrote on Longreads last week, 'Choire makes people feel good about themselves and their work, and this of course is what makes an editor truly great.'
"Choire was most recently the head of partnerships at Vox Media. Before that he was editor of Gawker, and later a co-founder of The Awl. He also worked at The New York Observer. And over a decade ago he was a young writer on the Arts and Leisure section.
"The Styles report is key to the life of The Times. It allows for more risk taking in writing, and is a platform for exploring issues and personalities in a way that should push our boundaries. It is also one of the most important journals of fashion and style. And it should be fun."