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Former Metro Desk Editor Who Led Coverage of Rapfogel, Silver, Skelos and the Moreland Commission to Take Important Role at the Times

David Halbfinger was announced as The New York Times’ new Jerusalem bureau chief by the publication on Monday morning, July 24. It has been said by the paper that “there may be no more difficult or important job at The New York Times than that of Jerusalem Bureau Chief.” Perhaps this is why the role has been a fairly temporary one for the publication over the past year, following a four year stint by Jodi Rodoren. The venerable Peter Baker took on the role last year before he was recalled to cover the Trump presidency, when Ian Fisher took the helm in January. Ian is now leaving to return to Italy and his family.

Like Fisher, Halbfinger has had a long career at the Times holding several prominent roles, including most recently Deputy National Politics Editor under Carolyn Ryan. Fisher and Halbfinger also both spent time on the New York Times Metro Desk. During Halbfinger’s time helming the Metro desk, the New York Times led coverage on corruption and convictions involving Willie Rapfogel, former head of the long-established Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, and former legislative leaders Shelly Silver and Dean Skelos. He also led investigations into state political controversies involving the Moreland Commission – a gubernatorial authorized investigative body that was alleged to have been formed and then disbanded for political purposes.

With recent unrest in Jerusalem, Halbfinger will be entering his new role at a key moment. With news pouring out of the area several times daily after two dead Israeli Druze police officers, the decision by Israel to restrict access to the Al Aqsa mosque, and other killings, the bureau’s coverage will continue to be high octane. The Jerusalem Bureau is also regionally significant as it is the center of the New York Times’ broader coverage of the Middle East.

How the New York Times covers Israel and the Middle East is a regular point of contention between world Jewry and established media voices, with many saying the publication brings an anti-Israel stance to issues relating on both the news and editorial sides. Insiders and observers of both will be carefully watching Halbfinger’s early coverage for signs of ideological favor.

With many speculating on how the paper of record’s new Jerusalem bureau chief will handle his new role, most indications lead to having a heavy political slant, given David’s background at the Times. Halbfinger is also no stranger to covering scandal and corruption, which may have been part of the decision-making process considering recent news swirling around Netanyahu.

The New York Times full memo on the naming of David Halbfinger as bureau chief is below.

David Halbfinger, a 20-year veteran of The Times, will be The Times’s next Jerusalem Bureau Chief. Read more in this note from Michael Slackman and Greg Winter:

There is a lot of change in the newsroom right now, and that can be unsettling. But as Dean and Joe have said, this is also an opportunity to find new talent to take on some of the biggest, most important jobs at The Times.

Or in this case, a familiar talent: Our next Jerusalem Bureau Chief is David Halbfinger, a 20-year veteran of The Times.

David, our Deputy National Editor, has had quite a run at the Times: he was a copyboy; a reporter in Metro, National and Culture; and an editor in metro and politics before national. He has written hard-hitting investigations of corrupt public officials and businessmen, murderous prison guards, law-breaking Hollywood moguls, roamed his native Long Island, the Bronx, and eight states in the South, left a big mark in New Jersey, covered John Kerry’s presidential run and helped lead the politics team in New York.

Politics, violence, religion, culture, passion, relentless digging and compelling prose: all good preparation for one of the scrutinized (and most prestigious) jobs in journalism.

Our assistant masthead editor and chief talent scout, Carolyn Ryan, who had David by her side during the campaign last year, said he “is a gifted editor, a treasured colleague and a journalist with a remarkable sense of story and a sophisticated political mind.”

David and his family will be moving in August, and he will begin work after Labor Day. And after 28 years at The Times, Ian Fisher, our current bureau chief, and a dear friend, colleague and newsroom leader to many, decided he was ready for a change. He is planning to spend the next year with his family in Italy. We will miss Ian and wish him the very best.

One other word on David — when he was named Deputy National Editor, Marc said that David was “great with copy, full of ideas,’’ and, perhaps most importantly, “a nice guy.”

Please congratulate him.

— Michael and Greg

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