Howell Raines Journalist Howell Raines’s (1943- ) career took him from a position as a local Birmingham reporter to executive editor of the New York Times. Although he presided over an unprecedented period of award-winning work at the New York Times, Raines is most commonly associated with reporter Jayson Blair and his plagiarism scandal, which ultimately cost both men their jobs.
Raines was born Howell Hiram Raines on February 5, 1943, in Birmingham to Wattie Simeon and Bertha Estelle Walker Raines, the youngest of three siblings. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Birmingham-Southern College in 1964 and received his master’s degree in English from the University of Alabama in 1973.
Raines’s first reporting job was with the Birmingham Post-Herald, and his first assignment was covering the 1964 Iron Bowl from the sidelines. He also worked at WBRC-TV in Birmingham (1965-67), the Tuscaloosa News (1968-69), and the Birmingham News (1970). Raines was married in 1969 to Susan Woodley, with whom he had two sons. The couple divorced in 1990. From 1971 to 1976, he served as political editor for the Atlanta Constitution and then worked in that position at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida until 1978.
In 1977, Raines published his first book, Whiskey Man, set in Depression-era Alabama and based roughly on his own family history. His second book, My Soul is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered, hit the shelves only a month later. This work is a collection of oral accounts of the civil rights movement and features Alabama prominently.
Raines accepted a national correspondent’s job in Atlanta with the New York Times in 1978. His bureau work with the Times would take him to London and Washington, D.C. The pinnacle of his reporting career came in 1992, when he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, the highest honor for professional journalism. His story, “Grady’s Gift,” was an article for the New York Times Magazine focusing on his family’s black housekeeper and his childhood in Alabama. In 1993, the Times named Raines as its editorial page editor. Also in 1993, Raines published Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis. In 2001, he was made executive editor of the Times.
During Raines’s first year, the Times won a record seven Pulitzer Prizes, including the highest honor the organization gives, the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. In 2003, however, a San Antonio Express-News reporter accused Times reporter Jayson Blair of plagiarism. During its investigation of Blair, the Times found that he had plagiarized or fabricated parts of several stories. He also had a history of inaccuracies at the paper. Raines was fired in the fallout of the scandal. That same year, Raines married Krystyna Stachowiak.
In the aftermath, Raines turned to book writing. In 2006, he published The One That Got Away, a memoir filled with a mixture of fish tales and biographical nuggets. In 2008, he returned to journalism as a contributing editor and columnist for Conde Nast’s business magazine, Portfolio. Raines lives in Paradise Township, Pennsylvania, and continues to cover politics for the national print and television news media. In 2019, his son Ben was one of the discoverers of the remains of the slave ship, Clotilda, in south Alabama. In 2023, Raines was inducted into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame.
Works by Howell Raines
Whiskey Man (1977)
My Soul is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered (1977)
Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis (1993)
The One That Got Away: A Memoir (2006)
Auletta, Ken. “The Howell Doctrine.” The New Yorker (June 10, 2002): 48.
McFadden, Robert D. quot;Times Names Raines as Successor to Lelyveld as Executive Editor.” New York Times, May 22, 2001, Section A, p. 1.
Raines, Howell. “My Times.” The Atlantic Monthly 293 (May 2004): 49-81.