The New York Observer just got its sixth top editor in seven years, but this one stands out from the rest.
Publisher Jared Kushner placed Ken Kurson atop the salmon-colored newspaper’s masthead Friday morning. The New York Times broke the news in the afternoon. Kurson most recently was a contributing editor at Esquire magazine and simultaneously did media consulting work for New Jersey political firm Jamestown Associates. He has also worked as a Republican political operative, co-wrote “Leadership” with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and worked on Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign.
The move came as the New York City mayor’s race is beginning to heat up. Giuliani and a number of former aides have reportedly backed Joe Lhota, a Republican, for the November contest. The race will be covered heavily by the newspaper, but in an interview Friday with the New York Times Kurson dismissed any suggestion that his ties to the former mayor will color the Observer’s coverage.
“People will think what they want,” he told the Times. “I will have to earn their trust. I have had a long and honorable journalistic career, calling it like I see it and being a straight shooter.”
Aaron Gell, who took over as the Observer’s top editor after Elizabeth Spiers left the paper in August, told Capital New York he isn’t sure what his next move will be but is happy to stay at the paper in the meantime. Gell did not respond to TPM’s request for comment. In a memo to staff, obtained by TPM, Kushner said he hopes Gell stays on in his previous role as executive editor.
In the memo, Kushner added that Kurson knows the stories and issues that define New York City “better than anyone.”
“He is a journalist and an author and through his years as a consultant observed the figures who create the framework of business, politics, media, tech, culture and real estate in our city,” he added. Kushner did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.
The Observer in October endorsed Mitt Romney for president. The paper’s editorials are often right-of-center, and a source familiar with the paper’s inner workings told TPM at the time that the editorials are “reflective of (Kushner’s) views.” Kushner, the son of a New Jersey real estate tycoon, took over the paper when he was just 25. He married Ivanka Trump in 2009. According to reports, Kurson is a close friend of Kushner and his father.
Read Kushner’s full memo here.
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com