Sharon Waxman, editor of The Wrap and a former Hollywood correspondent for the NYT, reported last night that NYT Living Editor Trish Hall -- who oversees the Dining, Real Estate and House & Home sections -- has been chosen to succeed Sam Sifton as Culture Editor.
"We hear it's Trish Hall," Waxman wrote.
But Hall did not confirm Waxman's account, and implied it's too soon for such speculation.
"[Executive Editor] Bill Keller is just beginning to consider who will succeed Sam, and I don't know who the candidates are," Hall told The NYTPicker this morning via email.
Catherine Mathis, the NYT's chief spokeswoman, emailed a similar disclaimer to The NYTPicker this morning. "We haven't picked a next culture editor," Mathis said, responding to our request for comment on the rumor. "We've just begun the search."
Hall would make an interesting choice for the job. She began her NYT career as a business section copy editor in the early 1980s, after a stint as a food reporter and editor at the Wall Street Journal. She became a food writer for the NYT and, later, editor of the Living and Dining Sections before leaving the paper in 1997 to become an editor at Martha Stewart Living. After returning to the NYT, Hall ran the Real Estate and Sunday Business sections before becoming the Living Editor.
It's worth noting that Keller's hires often don't follow the rumor mill. For example, yesterday's thoughtful New York Observer piece on the declining influence of the NYT's restaurant critic quoted sources who named four contendors for Frank Bruni's job from inside the NYT, and included denials from three of them. Sam Sifton wasn't mentioned, and got the job yesterday.
Known for her calm demeanor, easy laugh and shrewd sense of office politics, Hall has been a quiet but powerful force within the paper in recent years. She has often been called on for the revamping of coverage on specific beats, and is largely responsible for the current formats of the sections she oversees. Lately she has also reportedly been involved in planning for the paper's long-term future, and has long been considered a contender for top editorial positions within the NYT.
Hall is short on experience in culture. She has never been a culture reporter or critic and is not known to have coveted the Sifton slot. As a loyal and talented NYT player, she nevertheless makes sense as the paper's choice for a smooth transfer of power in a crucial department in need of stability. In this past Sunday's Public Editor column, Sifton acknowledged the "disaster" created by TV critic Alessandra Stanley's recent error-riddled appraisal of Walter Cronkite's career, under his watch.
If Hall ends up with the job, it won't be the first time a Culture Editor came from outside the ranks of the department. Sifton took over Culture in 2005 after running the NYT Dining Section. His predecessor, Steven Erlanger, had been a foreign correspondent and Metropolitan Editor before getting the Culture job in 2002. It's common for the NYT to assign such titles as a reward for managerial skills, as much as specific knowledge or experience in the field.