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New York Times CEO Mark Thompson Addresses Talent Flight

"Every year, we've got as many great journalists coming in the door as we have leaving," Thompson said at Code/Media.

Asa Mathat

Speaking on Tuesday at the Code/Media conference at The Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, Calif., New York Times CEO Mark Thompson dismissed persistent questions about brain drain and the flight of top talent from the Gray Lady.

The newspaper has seen the departure of marquee journalists including personal technology columnist David Pogue; Matt Bai, the Times Magazine’s chief political correspondent, who decamped for Yahoo; statistician Nate Silver, who joined ESPN; and media writer Brian Stelter, who moved to CNN. All used the high-profile publication as a launchpad to other lucrative media gigs.

Thompson countered that the Times had retained its share of big-name journalists, including columnists Thomas Friedman and Andrew Ross Sorkin, who have chosen to stay.

“Every year, we’ve got as many great journalists coming in the door as we have leaving,” said Thompson, who took over as chief executive of the New York Times in 2012. “I don’t think we have any problem at all retaining and attaining top journalists.”

Thompson said the Times has responded to the poaching creatively, allowing Sorkin to embark on a television career as co-host of the CNBC show “Squawk Box.” That allowed the Times to retain a talented writer.

“I don’t believe the supply-and-demand in the journalist marketplace is in our disfavor,” Thompson said. “If you’re a journalist and want to reach a big audience, there’s very few (news organizations) that offer an audience as large.”

The departure of Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight statistics blog was a must-read for political junkies, led to the creation of a new blog, The Upshot, where David Leonhardt leads a staff of journalists who use data to inform their analytical journalism.

“I think it’s doing as good an effort as anyone is doing in that space,” Thompson said.

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