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Its Editor Ousted, NEJM Loses Publisher

The publisher of The New England Journal of Medicine, Joel Baron, has quit his job less than 2 months after former Editor-in-Chief Jerome Kassirer was forced out. In a 13 September letter to colleagues, Baron said that after an expansionary push in which the journal's owner, the Massachusetts Medical Society, launched several new publications, he was ready to move on.

Under Baron's 2-year tenure, the society has started up new publications such as Heartwatch, a consumer newsletter, and acquired Hippocrates, a journal for physicians. It has also been entertaining the idea of lucrative arrangements with commercial publishing enterprises. Now that things have quieted down, Baron, who calls himself a "strategist" rather than an "implementation" person, says, "I think I will be able to make a bigger contribution elsewhere."

Some observers suspect that in the turmoil following Kassirer's dismissal, Baron no longer had a free hand to do what he was hired to do. Kassirer was pushed out because of "differences of opinion" with the medical society over activities that he claimed would compromise the journal's good name (Science, 30 July, p. 648). "There's been enough concern expressed by editors of the journal and the academic community" that management may have decided to put a hold on new publication initiatives, says NEJM Associate Editor Morton Swartz, former chief of infectious disease at Massachusetts General Hospital. Taking it one departure at a time, the society this week plans to announce the appointment of a search committee for Kassirer's replacement.