Media Moves

Convincing Krugman to write about economics for the NYT

November 19, 2008

Howell Raines writes in the latest issue of Conde Nast Portfolio about New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman, who won a Nobel Prize earlier this year and whom Raines hired back in 1999.

Raines writes, “Around 1999, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. told me he wanted to hire the first full-time economics columnist in the paper’s 150-year history. It was a dream job. A Times economics columnist could hold sway in his field the way James Reston did on politics or, more recently, Thomas Friedman did on foreign policy.

“As editorial-page editor at the paper, I took the train up to Cambridge to recruit a young Harvard professor whose work I had seen on Slate and elsewhere. So factor into my praise for Krugman whatever bias arises from my having recruited him for the Times. While I am proud of his work, he and I did not go on to become close pals; we had not spoken in more than five years when I called to congratulate him on the Nobel.

“We reminisced over his initial doubts upon being offered the Times job. Back then, I amused Sulzberger and other colleagues by quoting Krugman’s jittery initial response to our offer: He was afraid that dirtying his hands in daily journalism would ruin his chances of winning the Nobel Prize. He went on to explain, with an innocent candor seldom encountered in New York or Washington, that aiming at a Nobel was not the long shot for an economist that it would be for a novelist or physicist.”

Read more here.

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