Aron Pilhofer, the associate managing editor for digital strategy at the New York Times, has just been named to a similar position at the Guardian.
Compared to the firing of the New York Times’ top editor, Jill Abramson, last week, Pilhofer’s departure may not seem that noteworthy. But it’s interesting for what he was supposedly doing at the New York Times: trying to “save” it, according to a 2009 feature in New York Magazine.
The feature ran under the the headline “The New Journalism: Goosing the Gray Lady” and discussed five “renegade cybergeeks” who were doing some of the most innovative work at a publication that some, at the time, thought was doomed. The five were Pilhofer, Andrew DeVigal, Steve Duenes, Matthew Ericson, and Gabriel Dance.
Five years later, The Times is on a more solid financial footing, but with the departure of Pilhofer, three of those people are now gone. Here’s how the photo that ran in the article would look, updated today:
DeVigal, who ran the multimedia division of The Times, left for an interactive design studio called Second Story, and then co-founded a company called A Fourth Act, specializing in interactive storytelling.
Dance, who was a multimedia producer while at the Times, left for The Daily—News Corp’s iPad magazine, which closed after a little under two years—then became the interactive editor of the Guardian US. He is now the managing editor of the yet-to-be-launched Marshall Project, a news non-profit covering the US criminal justice system.
Duenes, the graphics director, and Ericson, the deputy graphics director, are still at the Times.
The recently leaked internal New York Times Innovation Report (pdf) had this to say about Pilhofer and Duenes.
An important shift happened recently with the promotion of Aron Pilhofer and Steve Duenes to the masthead. The promotions paid off quickly: Both are responsible for hiring much of our best digital talent and for launching ambitious digital initiatives.
The report goes on to mention Pilhofer by name twice more. The Interactive News team—the group of multidisciplinary journalists he founded—is mentioned nine times in the report.
Update, May 20: In a letter to the Times newsroom, provided to Quartz by the paper, executive editor Dean Baquet called Pilhofer a “digital pioneer” and a “model ambassador” who leaves behind a “deep and talented” team.