Nicholas Kristof Leaves New York Times as He Considers a Political Run

After 37 years at The New York Times as a reporter, high-level editor and opinion columnist, Nicholas Kristof is leaving the newspaper as he considers running for governor of Oregon, a top Times editor said in a note to the staff on Thursday.

Mr. Kristof, 62, has been on leave from The Times since June, when he told company executives that he was weighing a run for governor in the state where he grew up. On Tuesday, he filed to organize a candidate committee with Oregon’s secretary of state, signaling that his interest was serious.

In the email to the staff announcing his departure, Kathleen Kingsbury, The Times’s opinion editor, wrote that Mr. Kristof had redefined the role of opinion columnist and credited him with “elevating the journalistic form to a new height of public service with a mix of incisive reporting, profound empathy and a determination to bear witness to those struggling and suffering across the globe.”

Mr. Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, joined The Times in 1984 as a reporter and later became an associate managing editor, responsible for the Sunday editions. He started his column in 2001.

“This has been my dream job, even with malaria, a plane crash in Congo and periodic arrests abroad for committing journalism,” Mr. Kristof said in a statement included in the note announcing his departure. “Yet here I am, resigning — very reluctantly.”

In July, Mr. Kristof, who grew up on a sheep and cherry farm in Yamhill, Ore., said in a statement that friends were recruiting him to succeed Kate Brown, a Democrat, who has been Oregon’s governor since 2015 and is prevented from running again by the state law.

“Nick is one of the finest journalists of his generation,” A.G. Sulzberger, The Times’s publisher, said in a statement. “As a reporter and columnist he has long embodied the best values of our profession. He is as empathetic as he is fearless. He is as open-minded as he is principled. He didn’t just bear witness, he forced attention to issues and people that others were all too comfortable ignoring.”

As part of the announcement, Ms. Kingsbury noted that Mr. Kristof had been on leave from his column in accordance with Times guidelines, which forbid participation in many aspects of public life. “Journalists have no place on the playing fields of politics,” the handbook states.

Mr. Kristof, a former Beijing bureau chief, won his first Pulitzer Prize in 1990, for international reporting, an award he shared with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, a former reporter, for their coverage of the protests at Tiananmen Square and the crackdown by China’s military. The second, in 2006, recognized his columns on the Darfur conflict in Sudan, which the International Criminal Court has classified as a genocide.

Mr. Kristof and Ms. WuDunn have written several books together. The most recent, “Tightrope,” published last year, examines the lives of people in Yamhill, a once-prosperous blue-collar town that went into decline when jobs disappeared and poverty, drug addiction and suicides were on the rise.

“I’ve gotten to know presidents and tyrants, Nobel laureates and warlords, while visiting 160 countries,” Mr. Kristof said in his statement on Thursday. “And precisely because I have a great job, outstanding editors and the best readers, I may be an idiot to leave. But you all know how much I love Oregon, and how much I’ve been seared by the suffering of old friends there. So I’ve reluctantly concluded that I should try not only to expose problems but also see if I can fix them directly.”

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