New York Times Styles editor Choire Sicha makes puzzling departure

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Both the fashion world and New York Times insiders were abuzz on Friday over the surprise exit of the paper’s Styles section editor Choire Sicha.

“Hello!,” Sicha wrote in the farewell note that caught his roughly 50-person staff off guard Friday morning. “Because everything is so good on the desk right now, I’m taking advantage of the moment to renounce this job…”

Sicha, who will be taking a new job in The Times’ nascent newsletter unit, didn’t say why he was leaving. But he appeared to joke that he is simply joining the recent “trend” of overworked media folks up and quitting their jobs.

“I know quitting media jobs is a solid trend at this point and I hate being slightly late to it but it’s always nice to have company,” he wrote.

Now speculation is rampant as to who will replace him as head of the influence section, known for it’s wedding announcement and popular “Modern Love” column.

Sicha — a Times outsider when he was brought over from Vox Media to shake things up in 2017 — encouraged people on the staff to apply as there is no replacement at the moment.

Insiders who are expected to put their hands up for the job include the section’s deputy editors Alexandra Jacobs, Anya Strzemien and Natalie Shutler, sources said.

But the most intense speculation seems to center on Stella Bugbee, who until October was the editor-in-chief of The Cut, the fashion vertical of New York Media, the parent of New York Magazine, where she is now an editor at large.

Only Bugbee dismissed that there had been any overtures from the Times. “I know nothing about that honestly,” she said. “It’s news to me.” Her old job at the Cut was taken over in early January by Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Lindsey Wagner Peoples.

Bugbee says she is enjoying writing for the magazine and working on TV projects at New York Media. “They are keeping me very busy,” she said.

That leaves sources circling back to exactly why Sicha left so suddenly without a replacement in the wings. “It’s puzzling,” noted one insider.

He continued his farewell in a style that once might have delighted readers of the snarky website Gawker, where he served two separate terms as editor — making him a veritable Grover Cleveland of Gawker chiefs.

“This desk was a GREAT problem to work on for almost four years,” Sicha wrote. “And now honestly you’re fine. I want to be in the mess. You’re not messy enough for me. You deserve someone who is less messy too. I am going to go off toward another crisis,” he wrote.

But that only seemed to sow more confusion among insiders. “The whole thing is weird,” said one. “People are definitely surprised.”

In a subsequent email that went out Friday, executive editor Dean Baquet, managing editor Joe Kahn and Sicha’s current boss, assistant managing editor Sam Sifton, heaped praise on Sicha’s tenure at Styles.

In their farewell, the men wrote that Sicha had “remade the Styles section” and that he did so with “verve, playfulness and creativity, aggressively covering as he put it once, ‘politics, gender, sexuality, health, crime, shoes and contouring.’”

“Now he is taking on a new and exciting challenge as a senior editor charged with a project to help expand our newsletter portfolio alongside Sam Dolnick and Adam Pasick,” according to the letter.

“Newsletters are the internet’s oldest and newest format and there is no one better than Chorie to help us think through how to use them to form deeper connections with our readers and showcase news voices…”

But there were few clues as to exactly what the new role will be. “He has not been put in charge of whatever this newsletter corner of The Times that they are developing,” an insider said.

One former editor said that the Times is nervously looking over its shoulder at Substack, which is signing up star writers and supporting them with advances to help them start their own newsletters. “In many ways, the Awl which Sicha co-founded was an early form of that kind of journalism,” said a former editor.

But if Sicha had an inking to share with his fans as well as his detractors, he is remaining mum. Calls and emails were not returned by the time of writing.

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