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Baquet, Dean P.(1956–) - Journalist, newspaper editor, Chronology

times york orleans reporter

Dean P. Baquet moved up in rank in journalism from part-time reporter for an afternoon newspaper in New Orleans to a prized post with a major newspaper. He took the helm of the Los Angeles Times in October 2005, becoming the first African American journalist to lead a top newspaper in the United States. In the interim, however, he had made a name for himself with two other well-known newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times .

Born in New Orleans in 1956, Dean P. Baquet was the fourth of five brothers who were raised in one of that city’s working class neighborhoods. He had a part-time job early in life, cleaning his parents’ Creole restaurant called Eddie’s. The family lived in the back part of the building that housed their restaurant. At first the father worked as a mail carrier, but he gave up that job to open his own business. Dean Baquet took his first trip out of New Orleans when he left to study English at Columbia University; he became so homesick that he returned to New Orleans and, after his sophomore year, held an internship post for the city’s afternoon newspaper, the States-Item . Soon Baquet fell in love with his job. Rather than complete his studies at Columbia, Baquet took a full-time job as reporter, promising Columbia that he would transfer to Tulane University in New Orleans. He soon gave up formal training.

Baquet’s assignment with the States-Item , which the Times Picayune subsumed later on, was to cover news items related to the police force, the courts, and city hall. Later, he began what would become a triumphant career—investigative reporting. Baquet watched his older brother die after years of heavy drinking and smoking. Baquet believes that his writing about people he knew in New Orleans when he began his career contributed to his brother’s death. Also, corruption stories he wrote upset a local black political group to the extent that it boycotted his father’s restaurant. Writing about people and places where he lived was difficult for Baquet; he had trouble separating the good guys from the bad, writing about them fairly, and then seeing them face-to-face the next day.

After seven years with the New Orleans press, Baquet moved to the Chicago Tribune in 1984, where he later became associate metropolitan editor for investigations. As chief investigative reporter, in 1988 Baquet led a team of three reporters that documented corruption in the Chicago City Council. According to an article on LAObserved , the team wrote stories on “the self-interest and waste that plagued Chicago’s City Council,” and for that project Baquet and Ann Marie Lipinski shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

Leading newspapers continued to take notice of Baquet’s work in investigative reporting. He left the Chicago Tribune in 1990 and became an investigative reporter for the New York Times . He despised his job the first year but liked it later on. He told the New Yorker that he had no aspiration to become an editor. Baquet began his work with the New York Times as deputy metro editor. He concentrated on investigations in New York and in Washington, D.C. During this time, he and another reporter were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for the series of stories that they wrote about poor care that patients received in New York City’s hospitals. In 1995, Baquet was named national editor. Although he had succeeded at the paper and had a promising career there (there are claims that he might have later headed the New York Times ), John S. Carroll, editor of the Los Angeles Times , lured Baquet away. Shortly after joining that paper in 2000, Carroll persuaded Baquet to move his wife Dylan and their ten-year-old son to Los Angeles. But his persuasion was apparently not difficult, for Baquet believed that he could make a greater contribution in journalism by working in Los Angeles than in New York. As well, his vision was “to make the West Coast Times edgier and more focused on investigative work,” he told Rachel Smolkin for AJR .


1956 Born in New Orleans, Louisiana

1984 Becomes associate metropolitan editor for the Chicago Tribune

1988 Shares Pulitzer Prize with teammate

1990 Becomes investigative reporter for the New York Times

1995 Becomes national editor for the New York Times

2000 Moves to Los Angeles Times as managing editor

2005 Becomes first African American editor of a major newspaper, the Los Angeles Times

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