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Howell Hiram Raines (/ /; born February 5, 1943 in Birmingham, Alabama) is an American journalist. He was Executive Editor of The New York Times from 2001 until he left in 2003 in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal. In 2008, he became a contributing editor for Condé Nast Portfolio, writing the magazine's media column.
Raines earned a bachelor's degree from Birmingham-Southern College in 1964 and later a master's in English from The University of Alabama, which also awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1993. In September of 1964, Raines began his newspaper career as a reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald in Alabama. He also reported for WBRC-TV in Birmingham. After a year as a reporter at the Birmingham News in 1971 he became political editor of the Atlanta Constitution. In 1976 he left that post to become political editor at the St. Petersburg Times.
The New York Times
Raines' affiliation with The New York Times began in 1978, when he joined as a national correspondent based in Atlanta. By 1979, Raines was Atlanta's bureau chief, a position he held until 1981, when he became a national political correspondent. By the next year, Raines had advanced to become a White House correspondent for The Times. He progressed to management in 1985, becoming deputy Washington editor. In 1987, Raines transferred to London and worked as the newspaper's London bureau chief. The next year, he returned to Washington D.C. to become the city's bureau chief. In 1992, "Grady's Gift", a narrative of his childhood in Alabama with a focus on the family's black housekeeper, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. His longest-lasting assignment with The Times began in 1993, when he left Washington for New York to become the paper's editorial page editor, a position he held for eight years. The aggressive, colloquial style of his editorials, especially in criticizing President Clinton and his administration, drew widespread notice and a share of criticism, not least because it differed from the measured tone for which Times editorials had been known.
Raines was appointed Executive Editor of The Times in September 2001, serving until May 2003, when controversy stemming from the Jayson Blair scandal led to his dismissal. A Times internal investigation revealed that 36 of the 73 national stories Blair filed with the paper over a six-month period were marred by faked bylines or evidence of plagiarism. Raines was faulted for continuing to publish Blair months after the paper's metro editor, Jonathan Landman, sent him a memo urging him "to stop Jayson from writing for The Times. Right now."
The Blair inquiry soon exposed widespread discontent among Times staffers over Raines' management style, which was described as arbitrary and heavy-handed. During a closed meeting among reporters the deputy metropolitan editor, Joe Sexton, was quoted as telling Raines and the managing editor, Gerald Boyd, "I believe that at a deep level you guys have lost the confidence of many parts of the newsroom... People feel less led than bullied." On another occasion Jerelle Kraus, art director for the newspaper's weekend section, was quoted as saying, "I hope things settle down and we get a decent executive editor who's reasonable. Howell Raines is someone who is feared."
His own investigation led the paper's owner, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., to conclude that Raines had alienated most of the New York and Washington bureaus. Raines' resignation, along with that of Gerald Boyd, was announced in The Times' June 5, 2003 issue. Joseph Lelyveld, who had been Executive Editor of The Times from 1994 to 2001, agreed to replace Raines on an interim basis. On July 14, 2003, it was announced that Bill Keller had been chosen as Raines' permanent replacement. In an interview on the Charlie Rose show of July 11, Raines admitted that Sulzberger had "asked [him] to step aside."
Raines reviewed his tenure as Executive Editor in an extended, 21,000-word piece published in the May 2004 issue of the The Atlantic. In it he claimed that he was hired by Sulzberger in the shared conviction that The Times had grown complacent and no longer functioned as a meritocracy in the assignment of stories to its reporters. Some of his colleagues dubbed the article "The Passion of The Howell," an allusion to the Mel Gibson movie The Passion of the Christ.
In the private meeting with reporters that he called and during which he announced Keller's succession to Raines' old job, Sulzberger, however, apparently denied ever holding such a view. Raines stood by his account and implied that Sulzberger was retreating from the opinion he says that he and the owner shared at the time of his promotion. "In the only interview I have given on the Jayson Blair affair, I spoke on the Charlie Rose show of the resistance I had encountered as a 'change agent' who was handpicked by the publisher to confront the newsroom's lethargy and complacency. A few days later, as he introduced my successor, Bill Keller, to the assembled staff, Arthur [Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.] rebutted my comment by saying, 'There's no complacency here—never has been, never will be.' I can guarantee that no one in that newsroom, including Arthur himself, believed what he said... Arthur's words signaled that nothing dramatic would be done to upset the paper's cosseted world."
Raines revisited the controversy in his 2006 book, The One That Got Away, which combines fishing stories and descriptions of his career as a journalist, with particular attention to the events preceding the Jayson Blair scandal and his own subsequent dismissal. The reviewer for The New York Times wrote, "When not spinning out his piscine adventures as parables of loss and letting go gracefully, Raines gives readers an alternately jokey and bitter account of his downfall at The Times—which may indeed be perfectly accurate, at least according to the solipsistic standards of memoir writing. But it is unsatisfactory in almost every other way."
On January 14, 2008, it was announced that Raines would become a media columnist for Condé Nast Portfolio. His first column was published in the March issue of the magazine, and analyzed the possibility of Rupert Murdoch buying, and therewith, from Raines' perspective, effectively destroying the New York Times.
Raines penned an op-ed in the March 14, 2010 edition of The Washington Post that was highly critical of Fox News Channel and of the impunity, in his view, that Fox's biased reporting benefits from in the journalistic world at large.
Books by Raines
In addition to The One that Got Away: A Memoir, Raines has authored a novel, Whiskey Man (1977); an oral history of the civil-rights movement; My Soul Is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered (1983); and the best-selling memoir Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis (1993).
- "Howell Raines". Encyclopedia of Alabama.
- Deggans, Eric (June 6, 2003). "Reporting scandal drives out New York Times editors". St. Petersburg Times.
- Raines, Howell (December 1, 1991). "Grady's Gift".
- "'Thousand Acres' Wins Fiction as 21 Pulitzer Prizes Are Given".
- Diamond, Edwin (August 30, 1993). "Howlin' Howell". New York.
- Boyer, Peter J. (August 22, 1994). "The Howell Raines Question". The New Yorker.
- "Times To Go". American Journalism Review. June 2003.
- "Editor of Times Tells Staff He Accepts Blame for Fraud". The New York Times. May 15, 2003.
- "Times Executives Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd Resign".
- "Bill Keller, Columnist, Is Selected As The Times's Executive Editor". The New York Times. July 15, 2003.
- Mnookin, Seth, Hard News: Twenty-one Brutal Months at The New York Times and How They Changed the American Media (New York, 2005), p. 256.
- Raines, Howell (May 2004). "My Times". The Atlantic.
- Aspen, Hal (June 11, 2006). "I'd Rather Be...". The New York Times.
- Raines, Howell (March 17, 2008). "Murdoch vs. the Times". Portfolio.
- Raines, Howell (March 14, 2010). "Why don't honest journalists take on Roger Ailes and Fox News?". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
- "Interview with Raines on Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis". Booknotes. May 1, 1994.
- "The Howell Doctrine". The New Yorker. June 10, 2002 (abstract).
- A conversation with Ken Auletta about Howell Raines