Thompson’s motives for taking what looks to be a challenging job may have been partly personal: His wife is the American author Jane Blumberg, his eldest son is at Harvard and his daughter starts at Harvard this year. “He’s after the power, the status, and the challenges,” said Johnson. “It’s a very powerful position in America.”

“He gets digital,” said Hewlett, who first worked with Thompson as a researcher on the BBC show Nationwide in 1982. “But he’s not a miracle worker.”


Hazel Sheffield is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @hazelsheffield.