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SWITCHING SIDES: After months of negotiation, Middle East correspondent Dexter Filkins is leaving The New York Times and heading to The New Yorker.
“I’m over the moon,” said David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, late this morning.
“He’s a heroic talent,” emailed Times executive editor Bill Keller. “I’ve personally written two Pulitzer nominations for him. We’ll miss him a lot, but I understand that after 10 years of high-adrenaline war coverage, he wants something completely different.”
Filkins told the Times of his decision today.
“I think Dexter Filkins has long proved himself as one of the great war correspondents and foreign correspondents not only of his generation but ever,” said Remnick. “And that’s reflected in both his coverage in the Times and also in his book [“The Forever War”]. Time and again he not only writes with real intelligence and grace but he also has the capacity to report deeply and break stories wherever he goes.
“He brings to us the knowledge of a huge region of the world that is going to be, unfortunately, on our agenda for an untold period of time,” he continued.
But Filkins may not just be limited to the Middle East.
“The plan here is to send Dexter to a wide variety of foreign stories that we will work out mutually,” he said. “I’m sure that he will get his fill of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but I’d also be very surprised if he didn’t travel far and wide—whether that’s the Middle East or Africa or India.”
Doesn’t The New Yorker already have a well-muscled group of foreign writers?
“It’s not very large,” he said, speaking about his foreign line-up. “We have people who are perfectly capable of going to do a foreign story here or there, but in terms of deeply experienced foreign correspondents we’re not as deep as I would have liked. Dexter is someone I’ve read for a long time and also talked to for a long time. He’s very good friends with [George] Packer and others.”
The Filkins move provides Remnick a workhorse and a fully dedicated foreign correspondent at a period when other New Yorker foreign writers either have side-projects or assignments at home. George Packer is expected to cover more domestic issues in the coming year. Steve Coll is the head of the New America Foundation.
Lawrence Wright is currently working on a domestic story.
The Filkins negotiation has lasted months, including a moment two months ago when Keller and Times foreign editor Susan Chira tried to convince Filkins in person in Afghanistan to stay at the paper (Keller and Chira were on a previously scheduled trip). Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren had tried to set up opportunities for Filkins to write for the magazine. Evidently, it wasn’t enough.
And now The New Yorker becomes that much more powerful.
Filkins will report to features director Daniel Zalewski who turned down the top job at The New York Times Magazine in September.
Filkins wrote in an email, “I love the New York Times, and I will miss everyone there. I’m eternally grateful for everything they’ve done for me. The New Yorker is an extraordinary institution, and I feel very lucky that I will have the privilege to write for them.”