The New York Times broke with its 160-year history on Wednesday when it appointed, for the first time ever, a woman Executive Editor, Jill Abramson.

Ms. Abramson is currently the Managing Editor of the venerable voice of liberal America and in her new role will step into the shoes of her current boss, the renowned Bill Keller. Mr. Keller, the NYT announced, will “become a full-time writer for the paper” after he hands over the top job to Ms. Abramson in September.

Announcing the high level shuffle NYT Publisher and the Chairman, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., thanked Mr. Keller for his service, saying to Ms. Abramson, “Jill, Bill’s decision to step down may be bittersweet. But the thought of you as our next Executive Editor gives me and gives all of us great comfort and great confidence.”

Mr. Keller steps down from his role after seeing the newspaper scoop up 18 Pulitzer prizes and boost its online audience size to nearly 50 million readers worldwide.

In the face of the economic downturn and the inexorable drift of readers and advertising to online editions, Mr. Keller was said to have proposed more “rigorous editing” and promised an ongoing commitment to “hard-hitting, ground-breaking journalism.”

While the NYT ended up laying off significant numbers of news staff in a bid to tighten its belt in recent years, Mr. Keller said on the occasion of Ms. Abramson’s appointment that “People talked, some of them rather smugly, about even The New York Times not being long for this world.” He added that now the NYT was now economically sturdy. “We are rich in talent. We are growing,” he said.

Ms. Abramson is a graduate of Harvard University and earlier in her career she was a senior reporter and then Deputy Bureau Chief at the Washington bureau of the Wall Street Journal. After becoming the Chief of Bureau of the NYT in Washington in 1997, she ascended to the Managing Editor role in 2003 following the Jayson Blair scandal.

Following that controversy, in which plagiarism and fabrication by a NYT journalist led to the resignation of Executive Editor Howell Raine, Mr. Keller became the new Executive Editor and appointed Ms. Abramson as his deputy.

More In: International | News