Childhood & Early Life
Dean P. Baquet was born on September 21, 1956, in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., to Edward and Myrtle Romano Baquet. He was the fourth of the five sons in the family. He is of Haitian descent.
The family lived in the historic Treme neighborhood of Louisiana, where Dean’s father worked as a restaurateur. His father worked as a postal worker before he sold his old house to start his restaurant.
The family was one of the richest in town and also one of the most respected. Dean was taught good values by his parents ever since he was a teenager. While he was studying at the ‘St. Augustine High School,’ he often mopped the floor of his father’s restaurant.
He also had a keen interest in writing. Hence, following his graduation from the ‘St. Augustine High School,’ he joined ‘Columbia University’ to study English literature. However, soon after he joined the university, his interests greatly shifted toward journalism. In his sophomore year, he did an internship at the ‘States-Item,’ a local newspaper in New Orleans.
He worked there for only a few months, but he loved the overall experience so much that he made the big decision of dropping out of college and working as a full-time journalist.
Later, Dean said that journalism had happened to him by accident and that he had fallen in love with it immediately, especially the branch of investigative journalism.
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Dean moved back to New Orleans and began his internship at ‘States-Item.’ For the next 7 years, he worked as a journalist in New Orleans and contributed to publications such as ‘The Times-Picayune.’ After his stint in New Orleans, he moved to Chicago to work as a journalist for the ‘Chicago Tribune,’ one of the best-known dailies from the city.
In 1984, he began working at the ‘Chicago Tribune,’ and within a few years, he established himself as one of the most hardworking journalists associated with the publication. His place was further cemented when he won the ‘Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Journalism’ in 1988, for his reports on the corruption scandal in the ‘Chicago City Council.’
Dean had conducted a 6-month investigation with fellow journalists Ann Marie and William Gaines. He published a seven-part series on his findings, which exposed the corruption and the influence-peddling that was prevalent at the ‘Council.’
In April 1990, he joined ‘The New York Times,’ one of the leading American daily newspapers. He joined the publication as an investigative reporter after working with the ‘Chicago Tribune’ for 6 years. He was later promoted to the position of the special projects editor of the paper. Two years later, although he held the same position, he worked from the executive editor’s office.
Speaking about his job as an editor, Dean said that he initially hated being an editor, as he wanted to cover the stories on ground. However, over time, he came to love his job, as it gave him the power to choose news stories based on their significance.
During his stint at ‘The New York Times,’ he mostly dealt with the stories that explored the relationship between New York politicians and private business owners in the city. Hence, several hard-hitting articles were featured in the newspaper.
As Dean continued to work in more powerful positions at the newspaper, his main focus remained on researching and reporting different areas of corruption, such as the dairy industry and cases of money laundering.
In 2000, however, the chief editor of the ‘Los Angeles Times,’ John Carroll, offered Dean the position of the managing editor at the newspaper. Dean accepted the offer and thus became the second most-powerful figure in the organization.
In the following few years, the newspaper won 13 ‘Pulitzer Prizes’ for effective journalism.
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In 2005, he became the chief editor, which was the top job at the newspaper. He thus became the first African–American to be the top man in an American national daily. However, he had major rifts with the management of the company, over the budget and staff cuts. He openly criticized the management. As a result, after serving 18 months as the chief editor, he was fired.
In 2007, Dean joined ‘The New York Times’ yet again. Over the years, he worked as their Washington bureau chief, their national editor, and their assistant managing editor. Then, in 2011, he was promoted to the position of the managing editor of the paper, under Jill Abramson. In 2014, he was promoted to the position of the executive editor of the organization.
His career was not away from controversies. Dean has been known for his bad temper tantrums. In one such instance, after a disagreement with Jill Abramson, he punched the wall very hard.
Later, in 2015, after the Charlie Hebdo shooting incident, Dean took out his frustration on journalism professor Marc Cooper from the ‘University of Southern California’ and called him “an asshole.” Marc had criticized ‘The New York Times’ for not publishing the Muhammad cartoon that had caused the trouble.
Later, in 2017, he allowed his newspaper to publish photos from the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, described by the United Kingdom as “very confidential” documents. Following this incident, the U.K. refused to share any vital information with the U.S.A.
In May 2019, he defended ‘Wikileaks’ founder Julius Assange and said that obtaining and exposing the information that the government keeps away from the public is “real journalism.”
He currently works the executive editor of ‘The New York Times’ and happens to be the first black man to have attained the honor.