The New York Times abruptly replaced its first female executiveeditor, Jill Abramson, on Wednesday and named managing editor Dean Baquet asthe first African American at the top editorial post.Abramson's departure was announced by the US daily's publisher Arthur Sulzberger,and the paper's own report said: "The reasons for the switch were not immediatelyclear."The sudden departure left many questions unanswered both inside and outside oneof the nation's most prestigious news organizations.One Times staffer, Ravi Somaiya, said in a tweet that Sulzberger cited "an issue withmanagement in the newsroom" but that no further details were known. Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy said the departureappeared irregular."This was definitely not a normal change," Kennedy told AFP."Abramson did not address the staff and was all but hustled out of the building. Theexplanation that Arthur Sulzberger offered about newsroom management seemscompletely inadequate."Dan Gillmor, a journalism faculty member at the Arizona State University, alsoexpressed skepticism. "If top exec in any other important industry left under mysterious circumstances,@NYTimes would launch a team of reporters to find out why," he tweeted.Alan Mutter, a former newspaper editor who is now a consultant, said of the abruptchange" "We don't know if she jumped or was pushed but the meager informationavailable suggests the latter."Mutter added that the ouster "suggests a dissatisfaction with either her style and/orperformance as a manager -- and probably does not reflect a reaction to theongoing secular challenges facing newspapers in general and the Times inparticular."- Blazing a trail -Abramson was appointed to head the 160-year-old paper in 2011, and led it in aperiod during which it was seen as having weathered the transition to digital betterthan many competitors."We successfully blazed trails on the digital frontier and we have come so far ininventing new forms of storytelling," she said in a statement from the paperconfirming her replacement."Our masthead became half female for the first time and so many great women holdimportant newsroom positions."Before taking the top job, the now 60-year-old journalist had been an investigativereporter for the rival Wall Street Journal and then the head of the Times' Washingtonbureau from 1997.She acknowledged in an interview last month that she had four tattoos including a"T," representing the Times.Her replacement, Baquet, is a 57-year-old newspaper veteran and former editor ofthe Los Angeles Times.Last year, The New York Times boasted the largest daily and Sunday circulation of any seven-day newspaper in the United States, with a weekday circulation of1,926,800 print and online versions. According to the company's 2013 annual statement, the firm had an annual turnoverof $1.57 billion.But like many dailies, the "gray lady" of US journalism has struggled with the moveaway from print.The Times has been hit by declining print sales and advertising, and said last year ittakes in more revenue from readers than from advertising, in a major shift.The company also sold off The Boston Globe and other regional newspapers tofocus on its core operations, and also divested other assets, including its stake in anonline employment website.The company brought in former BBC chief Mark Thompson, who became presidentand chief executive at the Times in 2012, as part of its effort to manage a digitaltransition.In a memo to staff, Sulzberger said the change comes "at a time when the newsroomis about to embark on a significant effort to transition more fully to a digital-firstreality.