Choire Sicha, who stepped down as the head of the New York Times’ influential Styles section in April — ostensibly to take a job as a development editor in the Gray Lady’s nascent newsletter division — has bolted to New York Magazine.
Sicha tweeted on Monday that he will be editor-at-large for the magazine run by editor-in-chief David Haskell starting on Aug. 1.
“I’m excited to say that now we’re going to [work together] and I truly wish him the best when I arrive in August. Good luck with me, David! No questions!
The development has raised more than a few eyebrows given the puzzling circumstances around Sicha’s surprise exit on April 19 from the high-profile job.
“Seems like the whole thing was a charade,” said one Times insider of the original announcement which said he was going to work on strategy for a new newsletter division. “[It] suggests he was forced out and the newsletter thing was spin till he found himself another gig.”
Another insider added, “I don’t know if it was a charade so much as a realization that he wasn’t working out the way they wanted in the current job and they wanted to put him somewhere else.”
As previously reported, Sicha’s departure came despite rave reviews for his work on the section known for its fashion, sex and pop culture stories as well as its wedding announcements. Times brass was reportedly uneasy with Sicha’s freewheeling management style — despite the creative juice he brought to the section.
When he initially was recruited to the Times to replace Stuart Emmerich in 2017, the onetime editor of Gawker and founder of The Awl was seen as an unconventional choice — suggesting Times brass wanted to shake things up.
His first direct report was to deputy managing editor Carolyn Ryan who was said to have clashed with Sicha over his hands-off approach to management. He was eventually handed off to Sam Sifton, an assistant managing editor who had come from the alternative press himself and was an early supporter.
Sifton himself survived some odd moves when he transitioned from a respected and feared position as food and restaurant critic in 2011 to national editor, and then two years later to an ill-defined job to “create an immersive magazine experience for the newspaper.”
Sifton did not respond for comment, but tweeted on Monday that he was “Thrilled for him and bummed for us. Also, excited to read him ALL THE TIME.”
Also chiming in on Twitter was Taylor Lorenz, a Sicha hire at Styles who ran into criticism for falsely accusing a Silicon Valley titan of using a slur. That error generated quite a bit of social media blowback, and when Lorenz complained that the harassment has “destroyed my life,” she was further criticized for being out of touch.
While some sources said that Sicha’s handling of the Lorenz caper was a cause for concern among the higher-ups, Lorenz was apparently not one of his critics.
“NY Mag is so incredibly lucky @Choire is a genius,” she tweeted with a loudly crying emoji.
Sicha did not respond to calls or emails from Media Ink, but from the start, he sounded like the newsletter gig would be a layover. He mentioned in his surprise farewell that he expected to be around the Times “at least through the summer.”
Sicha will regularly write short-form pieces for Intelligencer, as well as longer essays and critical pieces as a roving observer, a critic on the country’s changing cultural landscape. He’ll also be an editor focusing on special projects, especially on new New York editorial projects.
And now nearly two months on, the Times appears to be no closer to a final candidate for the still-vacant post. Many sources believe that Stella Bugbee, a former editor of New York Magazine’s fashion vertical, and since October an editor-at-large at New York Magazine, is a top target.
But there is also strong internal support for Alexandra Jacobs, a deputy editor at Styles who ended up running many of the day-to-day operations for Sicha. Neither could be reached for comment.