Times recruits Kantor

Move may be first bellwether decision of new guard

The Grey Lady may be taking a dip in the fountain of youth.

The Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times, which officially hasn’t had an editor since John Rockwell quit six months ago, will likely tap Slate New York editor Jodi Kantor as its new topper.

The move would mark an unusual choice for the Times, which often appoints insiders to top jobs.

Since Rockwell left the section, his deputy Bill McDonald has filled his job.

In October, the Times announced that Berlin bureau chief Steven Erlanger would replace John Darnton as cultural news editor, and last week it appointed former drama critic and op-ed writer Frank Rich to help Erlanger reshape the paper’s coverage of the arts as an associate editor.

New compass heading

The choice of Kantor may be the first bellwether decision of the new guard, which has vowed to refresh the section.

Kantor, who could not be reached for comment, would be a relatively young choice for the Times. Her Slate pedigree reflects the range of coverage that the Times’ top editors say they would like to improve upon.

When asked to comment on Kantor’s hiring, a New York Times spokesman said the newspaper doesn’t comment on personnel issues.

Kantor, 27, apparently has shepherded Slate’s popular “Sopranos” dialogue and brought in television critic Virginia Heffernan.

More latitude

Published on Sundays, the Arts and Leisure section is a likely location for the new editors to make their imprimatur quickly. Unlike the daily section, which features the work of many staffers, Arts and Leisure commissions much more freelance work.

Insiders point out that a personnel shakeup in the daily Arts section may prove more difficult, as those reporters and writers are affiliated to the newspaper’s union, which makes dismissal a prohibitive act.

“Instead of firing someone, the paper just sends them to the copy desk of the Westchester section,” noted a Times vet.